When Japanese developer iNiS was confirmed to be attached to the Xbox 360 singing game, Lips, it might have felt like an odd project for the team. Responsible for rhythm classics like Gitaroo Man and Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, Lips looked simply like a SingStar clone, a fraction of the experience available in Rock Band.
"Rest assured there are things you haven't seen yet", we were told at yesterday's Lips hands-on session. "There's a lot of iNiS in there".
What does that mean exactly? Lips might not feature oddball heroes like a talking robot dog and male cheerleaders saving the lives of the less fortunate, but it has the iNiS polish. Little things, like jump-in coop play — just shake the second mic to join an in-progress game — and a perfectly honed interface, may not be the sexiest of features, but it sets a solid foundation for Lips as a more than worthy competitor to SingStar.
We got a chance to take a look at three of the confirmed songs in Lips: Duffy's "Mercy", Peter, Bjorn and John's "Young Folks" and the Young MC classic "Bust A Move". That last song features a slightly different note chart system than the more melodically driven tracks, with beat matching more important than keeping your performance in tune. Lips' syllable detection tech makes the experience feel more playable than previous hip-hop game efforts.
The iNiS touch comes through in adding replayability to each song, with a deep scoring system, six unlockable medals per song, and a leveling system making the experience more than just about having perfect pitch.
Lips is planned to ship with some 40 songs, but it also lets players stream tracks from their Zunes or iPods. It takes a few seconds to pull in a track list, but after the game recognises your music library, you're good to go. Songs are streamed from an external device, not copied over.
So, how will you be scored on songs that aren't on the disc or purchased from the in-game store? And what about plugging in Microsoft and iNiS aren't saying. There's a "creative solution" for this, iNiS creative director Keiichi Yanno said, something that they plan to announce later.
We're looking forward to see what they have up their sleeves — Yanno sounds like he's chomping at the bit to tell us what's coming — and think that it will find a pretty big fanbase.