You’d think it would be pretty hard to mess up a karaoke game on the Wii U, wouldn’t you? I mean, you just throw some songs on a disc, include a USB microphone, and use that handy GamePad controller to display the lyrics to songs. Simple enough.
At first, Sing Party really seems to understand the formula. The selection of 50 songs is decent, if a bit anemic compared to what other music games offer these days. At the very least, it’s an eclectic mix of styles, with everything from disco and classic rock to current hits like “Call Me Maybe” and “Party Rock Anthem.” Odds are good anyone would be able to pick out at least one or two songs they know and love on here. The presentation is nice, too, with very clean, colorful menus. We’re off to a solid start.
Then you actually begin to play the game, and that’s when things start to seem a bit off. For starters, you realize there’s only one difficulty level, and all the songs are unlocked from the very start. The only things that look distinctly game-y about it are the high score lists for each song and the pointless awards you can collect to level up your user account. Other than that, this is basically a karaoke machine that’s running on your Wii U.
But hey, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t still be worthwhile. Rock Band‘s always been a terrible substitute for the social side of karaoke, since you need to read the lyrics off of the TV and are therefore unable to perform for the audience. The touchscreen on the Wii U GamePad could fix that. And it does. Sort of.
See, the one feature I actually knew about in Sing Party—that you could follow along with the lyrics on the GamePad while you perform, is only available in the game’s Party Mode—which doesn’t judge your pitch at all. Instead, the game just functions like a basic karaoke machine while suggesting choreography, both for you and the people watching. It’s a little creepy how prescriptive it all feels. If I’m being told to act like I’m having a good time, I start to feel like I’m in one on those North Korean propaganda parades. “You will now clap your hands to the beat in accordance with the principles of the People’s Glorious Sing Party.”
Outside of that embarrassment of a game mode, Sing Party plays exactly like any other singing game. You’re forced to read the lyrics and monitor your pitch on the TV—but at least you use the GamePad touchscreen to built a playlist of songs and mix the audio levels in real time, right? Right?
Sadly, not even the basics are up to snuff. In my experience, Rock Band‘s pitch detection always does a solid job no matter how gruff or quiet my signing voice is, but Sing Party seems to struggle whenever I veer too far away from normal. It also appears to be a bit laggy when it comes to detecting quick changes in pitch, so much so that really short notes sometimes don’t register at all.
It’s a shame, really. All of it. I’m not sure if it’s possible for a game to be the opposite of a system seller, but Sing Party definitely comes close for me. It makes such terrible use of the Wii U’s features that I actually feel more pessimistic about the future of the console for having played it.
SUMMARY: Sing Party flounders between niches, with too little depth to make for a decent music game and too few songs to serve as a replacement for an actual karaoke machine.
- THE GOOD: Slick presentation, eclectic mix of tracks.
- THE BAD: The rest of it.
- THE UGLY: One word—Nickelback.
Sing Party is a Wii U exclusive.