Konami's Karaoke Revolution series and the talent-search phenom American Idol seem like such a natural match it's surprising that the publisher has taken this long to pair its prolific singing franchise with the smash-hit TV show. Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol arrives just in time for the start of the program's 2007 season, and while it hits most of the high notes you'd expect from a game with the American Idol license--authentic venues, video clips of famous performances, (mostly) celebrity judges--the trappings of the television show make the game feel a little lackluster overall. Luckily, that fact doesn't really impact the underlying karaoke gameplay, which is just as entertaining and accessible as it's been throughout the last several versions of the franchise.
The celebrity judging can be lame at times, but that shouldn't affect your enjoyment of the karaoke much.
The American Idol mode here is essentially a career mode, in which you start out singing in front of the series' infamous judges to earn your "golden ticket" to the next elimination round in Hollywood. As you successfully clear each song, you'll move on through the Hollywood round to the semifinals and then, finally, the big stage of the top 12. All the sets and venues are realistically re-created here, which lends a feeling of authenticity if you've watched much of the TV show. However, even casual fans will quickly notice that while rambunctious Randy Jackson and acerbic Simon Cowell are here in both likeness and voice, Paula Abdul is nowhere to be found. In her place is a generic judge named Laura, who looks somewhat like Abdul but is considerably less zany. In fact, her dialogue is pretty flat and bland. Given some of Abdul's bizarre hijinks on the last season of the show, though, her absence may not bother you much.
At any rate, the judges will critique your performance as you'd expect, commenting on your pitch or timing in their respective styles. Unfortunately, the dialogue is pretty stilted and sounds as though it was recorded in a studio (which it was, of course). Jackson will mention the dog pound now and again, and Cowell's trademark insults are pretty similar to the kind of bile he spews on the air, but their delivery isn't very enthusiastic. They'll also seem to contradict themselves once in a while, such as starting out with a pointed criticism of your pitch but going on to describe your performance as brilliant overall. You might also hear the exact same line only a few songs apart while playing through the American Idol mode. More often than not, the judges offer what seems like accurate and thoughtful criticism, but even then, it's not terribly exciting. It does get the job done, though, and you can skip it if you want.
The game's judging aspect has nothing to do with the actual gameplay, however. Heck, previous games didn't even have this feature, and so this version plays just as well as its predecessors. That's largely because it plays just like its predecessors, with song lyrics and visual cues indicating pitch scrolling along the bottom of the screen. The Idol-influenced track lineup is quite solid and reasonably diverse; you'll find at least a handful of songs on the 40-strong list that you've sung or at least heard at a bar or box, as many of them are karaoke staples. Many of the songs are either taken from some of the show's biggest performances and auditions ("Proud Mary," "Alone," "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me") or taken from the Idol winners' own repertoires ("Do I Make You Proud," "Breakaway")--though the latter may be a turnoff to some.