Reviewed: December 6, 2008
Released: October 21, 2008
Disney Sing It is a game targeted exclusively at the "9-13 year old Hannah Montana fan" demographic. With the Disney name, so much more is possible than what has been produced here. Disney Sing It will unfortunately be of no interest to general audiences whatsoever for various reasons, including a lack of real gameplay, useless tutorials and a song list full of music most adults and even many teenagers have never heard before.
Given the high frequency with which more famous Disney songs are butchered at my favorite karaoke dive, it seems like a sensible choice to make a karaoke game based around the music that everyone already knows and loves: the songs from Disney's animated films. Hopefully that will happen someday, so we can all unabashedly belt out "Be Our Guest" and other beloved tunes in the safety of our own homes. For now, overeager for a quick buck, Disney has slapped their name on a Sing It game and produced a final product that is little more than a target for eager-to-please parents to throw money at this holiday season.
The game features just 35 songs to sing along to (most other karaoke games feature around 50). Why so few? Aside from the idea that the developers wanted to at least show a little mercy to all those parents out there who will have to hear the game's songs over and over again after the holidays are finished, it may be that there was simply not enough space, since each song plays over its original music video. The visual quality of the videos is indistinguishable from the quality of watching the video on a cable music channel, so all 35 together probably take up a lot of space.
The sound quality of each song is also very high and indistinguishable from CD quality in all cases. Unfortunately for the game, none of the videos are any more enjoyable than the songs that accompany them, and in some cases they even make the songs seem more annoying. Of course, if you like this music, you'll probably enjoy having the videos to watch, too; that being said, the fact remains that the majority of this game's fan base falls into a very narrow demographic, leaving it without much mainstream appeal. Whether or not songs like Hannah Montana's "Best of Both Worlds" are your cup of tea, it's hard not to see the limited viability of such a niche-focused title.
It is worth pointing out that "sing along" is the correct term for how Disney Sing It is played. I searched high and low, but nowhere was I able to find a way to sing without vocal accompaniment from the original artists. It's impossible to even turn down the voices of the singers, although the volume of each player's microphone can be turned up somewhat. The end result is a game that doesn't even allow players the simple satisfaction of hearing their own voice front and center in the songs they choose to sing. While it's true that this is reminiscent of the "K-TV" style of sing-along booth karaoke popular in some east Asian countries, at least giving players the option of turning vocals off would have added some depth and replayability to the game.
Even worse is the fact that it's easy to top all of the game's high scores in every mode without singing at all. The game is so utterly forgiving that even just dragging the microphone back and forth across the rug was enough to earn me scores of over 200,000 points on every song I played, in every difficulty mode. That's easily more than the measly 125,000-point high score each song comes prepackaged with. Sure, you can compete against yourself, but where's the challenge to begin with?
Actually singing will net you higher scores, thankfully, but there's hardly any incentive to try to get better at singing, which is one of the more entertaining aspects of games like Karaoke Revolution and the flawed but well-intentioned Boogie. This game won't even gently chide players for being out of tune, let alone make them work for their rewards. During the aforementioned mic-on-carpet technique I tested, Disney Sing It had the cheekiness to occasionally flash the words "Good" and "Great!" onscreen. This was with the game set to the Hard difficulty. I understand that it's important to make games marketed towards children a bit on the easy side, but isn't that what difficulty modes are supposed to allow for?
The only way to really challenge oneself is to purchase an additional USB microphone and go head-to-head with a friend to see who can get the high score. Although only two microphones can be hooked up, up to eight players can also take turns in a team play mode. Those people who actually play this game will likely find that the majority of the fun to be had from it is in the multiplayer modes, which include the aforementioned score duel and team play modes, and a cooperative mode that allows one player to sing harmony to the other's melody.
These modes are also most likely to cause players to open up the game's tutorial mode to get pointers on things like how to sing in harmony. Unfortunately, the "tutorials" are basically just brief descriptions of musical techniques followed by a song prompt and a "good luck!" If you're like me, you only manage to hit harmony notes by accident, but even though an important aspect of Disney Sing It's cooperative play is the ability to sing harmonies, the tutorial on how to do so offers no pointers at all. Yes, we already know it's a second melody above the main melody. How do we get our voices to do that? This game won't teach you or even give you tips or tricks you can try to help yourself get there.
To recap: Disney Sing It collects 35 tween-pop songs culled from Disney's stable of pretty-faced showmen and women. It allows up to two players to sing along to these songs, or up to eight to compete in teams, provided there's a second USB microphone lying around. Each song is accompanied by a TV-quality music video, and the sound quality of Disney Sing It is also good, even if there's no way to turn off the original vocals. Everything comes through sounding clear and well-mixed. And why shouldn't it? Disney has basically put together a collection of music videos here and slapped a completely uninteresting, unchallenging excuse for a karaoke game onto them.
Disney Sing It is little better an experience than singing along to the TV, and at least it doesn't cost $49.99 up-front to do that. For those of you who have been dying for the chance to sing along to "Potential Make-up Song" and other such confections with a microphone, Disney Sing It presents a good enough opportunity. Aside from that specialized market, most people won't find this game worth looking at.