Reviewed: November 9, 2004
Released: October 12, 2004
Artificial Mind and Movement, Inc., the developers behind the new game Get On Da Mic, want you to be Eminem. Or at least his character in the movie 8 Mile. Not being immersed in the world of rap or its less infamous brother, hip-hop, I can’t be expected to throw down with the best of them on the local stage, so this is the next best thing to the rags to riches experience for wannabe rappers.
Rhythm games are quite popular with the less hardcore gamers because of their reluctance to learn arcane 10-hit combos or perhaps an inability to keep up with the midnight tweakers in online matches. For whatever reason, more and more people tend to be drawn in to music games, in particular those that make you the star. And karaoke is fast becoming the quintessential party activity of the 21st century for throngs of young people, though more women than men, I suspect.
Key Game Features:
You choose a character to represent your inner rapper. From a good-sized list, you choose your song and take the local stage, hopefully wowing the crowds enough to earn you the buzz that lands you a lucrative record deal and eventually makes you a international singing sensation. Sound appealing? Perhaps so, especially considering that you’re probably never going to do it in real life. Gotta love video games, eh?
As I said before, I’ve never been very good at rhythm games, especially the dancing kind. But with my USB headset, my loosest pants hanging low on my hips, and my Astros hat askew on my head, I did my best to get “jiggy” with anything resembling “it”.
The menus and overall interface are quite serviceable, if a bit lackluster. But, you could hardly blame the developers for their darker, grittier look for a game that’s all about comin’ up from the streets.
Like Karaoke Revolution, Get On Da Mic is not the most impressive game to make use of the PS2 headset however. By this I refer to the fact that you don’t actually have to say the exact words of a given song in order to get a good response from the game. Whereas Karaoke Revolution only looks for you to be on key, fittingly Get On Da Mic only looks for you to be on rhythm.
True to the aura of rap and hip-hop, your progress and indeed status is basically measured in the almighty bling. As you climb the ladder of success, you can purchase clothing, jewelry, electronics, cars and even houses to make sure everyone knows you’re for real.
Taking another cue from Karaoke Revolution, you can get boosts in your ratings from crowd response which are a direct result of your hitting the rhythm when and where you should. As the song moves along, various shots of the arena and the crowd play onscreen in a sort of documentary feel that would be pretty cool if you could take your eyes off the words crawling at the bottom of the screen, which wouldn’t be so hard if the developers hadn’t made the crazy decision to split lyrics onscreen into to separate lines. It really gets disorienting when you’re off the beat even a little, trying to find your place and the lyrics seem invariably on the other line. Sheesh.
Load times or control response aren’t a factor in games like this, though nitpickers might complain about having to stop to pick up the discarded PS2 controller on the floor once a song is done to navigate menus.
These games are not about graphics. That’s not to say that graphics get totally ignored here, but there’s only so much that needs to be represented in a music game. This isn’t about specular highlighting, or normal mapping. And there’s only so much draw distance required for a small club or warehouse in the hood.
The character models are a pastiche of urban youths of both genders, though not a lot to choose from. Here again is where more could’ve been done to add to the game. I am one of those people that think that giving any degree of customization implies that the developers wanted to give a sense of immersion. To that end, the more I can make myself look like I want, the better for me.
I love putting myself in games like EA’s Tiger Woods 2005, which offers an insane amount of physical customization of the player’s avatar. That might be a bit much to ask, but since the game isn’t making the PS2 even break a sweat graphics-wise, throw us a bone, huh?
Well, at least you’re not stuck with the big-head caricatures of some other rhythm games of late. And the environments are pretty cool the first couple of times you see them (assuming you’re just enjoying watching and not having to play the game too).
The bling that you so ardently strive for is sadly unrepresented except in the cut scenes, which seems to miss the point. But stylistically, the game does often deliver with levels that have a genuine urban feel like the beginning level where you’re practicing in front of the mirror in your squalid bathroom - though I should mention the repetitive animations that can become annoying after a while.
The street where you film your first music video works nicely too, though I expected the “video” to be more dynamic. But my personal favorite is the record launch party on top of a skyscraper complete with a helicopter’s searchlight overhead and adoring fans in attendance. It’s good to be the king.
In the sound department, this game does a good job of providing players with a good range of songs from the simple and fun (Salt N Pepa’s “Push It” and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s "Baby Got Back"), to the newer and more challenging (Black Eyed Peas’ “Hey Mama” and DMX’s “X Gon Give It To Ya”), to the simply nostalgic (the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”) – I mean there are dozens of tracks here. Interestingly, in order to garner a T rating from the ESRB, certain words were edited out which feels weird. I mean, you know how you feel when you’re listening to a song on the radio that’s been edited for whatever reason (length, language, etc.), it just doesn’t sound the same.
And though the songs were performed by studio musicians, I couldn’t tell the difference, though I’m sure rap and hip-hop fans could. I just wish there was a place to listen to the songs alone so I could learn the rhythm of the rhymes before getting onstage. But overall, the sound was what it should be, and I’m sure that those of you with a thumpin’ sound system will enjoy cranking things up.
Things become pretty questionable when you address this game’s value - specifically, replay value. Once you’ve completed the short ride to the top, what would keep you coming back to this game? There is the ability to play with multiple players, but it doesn’t feel as complete as the single player aspect of the game and is better suited to parties and late nights – which is fun, I’ll give it that. Where I have to take issue however, is that broken record of mine concerning online play.
This game could have been several times better had there been an option to take the battle online. To make things more bittersweet, the raw components for some seriously cool gameplay are all here including the EyeToy support this game offers. Imagine getting online, hitting up a room, finding a highly rated player to take on and having a freestyle contest to a game-provided backbeat where you can watch each other through the TV.
Throw in the ability for other online people to vote on their favorite rappers with the promise of winning greater recognition and you’re sitting on a new wave of online play; American Idol: The Home Edition. Throw in the ability to incorporate new, original backbeats from, say, MTV Music Generator 3 and things really start getting interesting. I realize there are issues regarding bandwidth, music rights and whatnot, but this sort of vision separates the truly great games from the also-rans.
Karaoke has invaded America with no signs of stopping any time soon. It’s only reasonable that developers answer this trend with a faithful, market-based entry to the phenomenon. And I have to admit the image of my character bouncin’ in the bathroom to “The Humpty Dance” had me grinning from ear to ear. There’s just a guilty pleasure that is inherent in the karaoke experience that helps this game despite its flaws.
But because of its limited replay beyond parties of friends gathered around the tube (and maybe a few drinks), and the shortcomings in voice technology, I’m obliged to advise that you’re better off renting this novelty. Peace with bacon grease, baby! Um, sorry.