Reviewed: January 12, 2007
Released: January 2, 2007
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a contestant on the hit TV show American Idol, now’s your chance to experience it as a contestant in a virtual season of the show simulated on Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol.
This latest game in Konami’s Karaoke Revolution series includes popular game modes from its predecessors, but its major departure from previous games in the series is the American Idol mode, which allows you to design your own digital contestant and compete against virtual contestants—and/or even other players—as American Idol judges Randy and Simon (Paula has been replaced by the fictional Laura) critique your performances.
The first thing I’d like to say about this game is this: it’s loads of fun, even for me, and I don’t even really watch American Idol.
Generally, licensed games haven’t often found a fond place in my heart, but Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol is a surprising exception. Sure, it makes sense for Karaoke Revolution to be successfully paired up with a franchise like American Idol, but rarely is a licensed game accomplished with this kind of gameplay quality and style. Original Karaoke Revolution developer Harmonix may have been replaced by Blitz Games for this title, but the change in developers is just about seamless; the game still feels and plays like a good Karaoke Revolution game.
Like the previous games, up to 8 players can compete vocally against each other, and the game will judge each singer’s performance based on both pitch and timing (but not lyrics, so feel free to trip up on the words as much as you want). Can’t read music? No problem. The game will show you your current pitch as a clearly marked arrow as bars representing the correct pitch scroll across the screen, along with the song lyrics. It’s fairly intuitive, so even the musically untrained should do all right.
Popular game modes from the other games—including the classic arcade, medley, Karaoke Revolution Challenge, duet, and non-competitive karaoke modes—are naturally present, but what makes this title stand out from the rest is, of course, the American Idol mode.
In American Idol mode, you can compete with your friends and/or simulated CPU contestants in a virtual season of the American Idol competition, starting from the audition room and singing your way to that TV show performance stage most of us are familiar with.
After each performance by each contestant, the three judges will each give you their opinion. True to the show, the judges—especially the notoriously acid-tongued Simon Cowell—are pretty tough to impress, and even if you achieve a platinum score, they’ll still be quick to tell you if your pitch slipped just a tad in the middle of the song. Then again, beating off Simon’s abuse is part of the fun; it becomes a game just to get him to say something nice for once.
As with the previous Karaoke Revolution titles, each player can customize a unique contestant. Character body type is customizable to even greater extremes than before, and as with previous Karaoke Revolution games, additional character accessories can be unlocked as you play the game.
In addition to unlocking customization items, continued play also allows players to unlock more songs, trophies, and also video clips from the American Idol TV show and a behind-the-scenes look at how the music for the game was developed.
The absolute best part of this game, though, is the judge’s voices and recorded commentary. Both American Idol judges Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell lent their voices to the creation of this game (while Paula Abdul has been replaced by a very similar fictional judge named Laura), and as you’d expect, they have their individual personalities and sound. What impressed me, though, was the way in which the comments were put together.
I’d expected that the judges would just spout a number of prerecorded clips and that they’d get repetitive and annoying, but I was completely wrong. While the judges do tend to repeat themselves from time to time, their detailed commentary after your performance is spliced seamlessly together, sentence by sentence. If you flubbed the end of the song, or if it was the middle of the song you had difficulty with, they’ll tell you specifically where you messed up. And, if you were sloppy on an easy song or really nailed a difficult one, they’ll know and comment accordingly. It’s a nice touch.
Overall, Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol is a very well put together game, and I can see it being an entertaining party activity.
The appealing cartoon graphics and animations are pretty much the same as those in the previous Karaoke Revolution games, though it seems like they’ve gone through a mild upgrade. You’ll find a lot of familiar stages and character accessories from Karaoke Revolution Party, but there are also a few new ones—namely, the American Idol stages, and a few other things—to keep things fresh. The character animations seem to be a bit cleaned up and now look less doll-like than they did in previous games. It’s no Final Fantasy XII, but the graphics are clean and pleasant to look at.
Surprisingly, the judges look remarkably like their real-life counterparts and are animated convincingly with individual quirks and expressive reactions to your singing. That’s not to mention that the developers did a great job of translating American Idol locations (like the audition room and the flashy performance stage) into instantly recognizable in-game backdrops, making for a more believable American Idol experience.
The selection of songs seems to be taken from songs that have been performed on the American Idol TV show (even including that William Hung favorite, “She Bangs”) and represents a fairly diverse selection of classic and recent hits, as well as different musical genres. In all, there are 40 songs—from “Build Me Up Buttercup” and “Piano Man” to Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway”—some of which you’ll have to unlock through play. It’s a pretty decent selection, though arguably more challenging of a song list to sing than, say, the list from Karaoke Revolution Party.
And, as I mentioned previously, the judges’ commentaries and voices are excellent and definitely a highlight of this game.
At a retail value of roughly $40 ($55 with mic), Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol is an affordable game that provides hours of amusement and party entertainment. While it’s not terribly different from previous Karaoke Revolution titles, this one’s definitely worthwhile to buy if the American Idol mode sounds appealing to you, or maybe even if you just like the song list.
In short, Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol is a blast to play, especially in a group setting, and is almost worth picking up just to hear the polygonal version of Simon Cowell hurl insults at you (and your friends) after your performances. This title is a brilliant example of how licensed games don’t have to suck and definitely makes for an entertaining diversion for gamers who enjoy singing.