A massive hit in the UK, the SingStar series really came to the U.S. way too late to be relevant. Sony’s take on what makes a good karaoke game is too different - and really, not as good as - the longer-running, more popular Karaoke Revolution games from Konami. Namely, Sony relies on using the original artists and videos of each song rather than a beefier list of tunes, sound-alikes, and cheesy 3D graphics.
At 30 songs, the list of hits you get to croon to in SingStar Pop pales in comparison to the 40-50 songs found in more recent versions of Karaoke Revolution. But the bigger problem here is something the KR franchise suffers from, too - a lack of song selection focus.
It seems like the developers really don’t know who they’re trying to cater to in Pop, leading to a song list that feels cramped and erratic. You’ve got some contemporary stuff from Alicia Keys and Franz Ferdinand; some slightly crusty stuff from the likes of Britney Spears (back when she was a deliciously naughty school-girl); and a handful of downright ancient ’80s hits from folks like Cyndi Lauper and Whitney Houston in her pre-diva days. But there's not enough of any of those eras to make it a must-buy for fans.
Moreover, when you compare the song list to that of the previous game in the series, Singstar Rocks!, they're not all that different in tone. Rocks! Had such inexplicable non-rockers as Marvin Gaye, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and Aretha Franklin, and Pop boasts rock-oriented tracks from the likes of 3 Doors Down, Hinder, and Blue October. It's all decent music, sure - it just makes the titles somewhat random (full track lists are here and here).
The jack-of-all-trades approach to song lists hurts an otherwise solid karaoke game. The interface is clean; the microphones are hefty and professional; and the multitude of party games - including EyeToy camera support that enables you to record yourself rocking out - makes this a decent title to bust out when entertaining a group of slightly sauced karaoke lovers.
If the songlist gets thin, you can also access tunes from SingStar Rocks by just swapping out the disc, should you have that game handy - the two are identical except for the color of the menus. Honestly though, in this age of HDD-equipped consoles, these games have outgrown the likes of the PlayStation 2 and its constricted, disc-based songlists. SingStar on PS3 stands to fix that with what will be a hopefully wide variety of downloadable content. That will be fantastic. But knowing it's coming, it’s hard to be satisfied by SingStar Pop. It's tasty, but it's more like an appetizer for the upcoming main course.