Sony continues to establish a foothold in the American market for its SingStar karaoke franchise with two more releases, SingStar '80s and SingStar Amped. The former ought to be self-explanatory--sing your favorite cheesy pop songs from the 1980s--and the latter focuses on classic and contemporary rock music. Both of these games are essentially identical in feature set and presentation to the last two SingStar games, Pop and Rocks! That makes them both serviceable, no-frills karaoke packages, and the only real difference between the two is their song lists, both of which have turned out to be pretty solid.
The guy at your party who picks this one to sing? That's the guy you want to ask to leave immediately.
In fact, the track lineup in '80s is probably the most cohesive of all the SingStar games released so far in North America, given that it focuses on that one relatively brief span of time. It's a who's-who of hits from the decade of MTV and Reaganomics, with everything from "Material Girl" (Madonna) and "Heart of Glass" (Blondie) to "I Ran" (Flock of Seagulls) and "Eye of the Tiger" (Survivor). Even Nena's quietly topical antinuke romp "99 Red Balloons" has managed to sneak onto the disc (not the German version, sadly). To round out the '80s feel, Twisted Sister's Dee Snyder (or at least one really good look-alike) appears in the game's intro movie in full period regalia. Like the other PlayStation 2 SingStar games, the presentation here is otherwise devoid of personality. But the song list is so familiar--anyone who was alive in the '80s will recognize most of the songs here--that the '80s theme manages to brightly shine through.
If you haven't played a SingStar game before, all of the ones released so far on the PlayStation 2 offer an identical, spartan menu setup that lets you play individual songs for score, as well as engage in a number of competitive and party games for between two and eight players. These include rapid-fire song medleys, score attacks, pass-the-mic challenges, and so on. You've also got the ability to record your performances for later playback and review, and to make yourself sound like a robot with one of several vocal filters. As with the previous games, you get music videos of the various artists performing as you sing their songs, but you can also plug in the EyeToy camera if you want to see yourself dancing awkwardly behind the lyrics instead.
Like previous versions, both '80s and Amped come in $50 retail packages that offer a quality pair of microphones and a USB adapter. But previous SingStar owners can also nab the games individually for $30 apiece. Each game has 30 songs on its list, and considering that the de facto music-industry pricing for song downloads is around $1 these days, that makes for a reasonable deal. These PS2 SingStar games will likely start to feel antiquated after the more feature-rich, online-enabled PlayStation 3 version hits later this year, but for now, they'll do a fine job for your typical Friday night sing-along.