Microsoft will attempt to steal SingStar's karaoke crown this holiday with the release of Lips, the Xbox 360 party game developed by iNiS, mostly famous for musical fare like Gitaroo Man and Elite Beat Agents. Today, the company announced further details on Lips, including the 40 song strong soundtrack, new gameplay modes and further details on how you'll use your iPod or Zune in the game.
The soundtrack — full listing after the jump — features a healthy mix of musical styles, from pop to hip hop to country, with modern day and classic karaoke classics. Stand bys, like Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" and Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees," are wisely included alongside newer jams like Lupe Fiasco's "Superstar", a rapping and singing duet.
Lips' shunning of "punitive gaming," however, as Microsoft Game Studios' Chris Esaki calls it, may be its most interesting design choice.
Not unlike the recently released Wii Music, Lips won't punish players for flubbing notes. This is a party game and, as such, issues regular rewards. We saw some of the game's leveling system at E3 earlier this year, which provides positive feedback for everything you do.
"There are no difficulty modes," Esaki told us during a phone interview. "It's great if you just try. Lips is about physical gameplay. You become part of the entertainment."
That "entertainment" Esaki is referring to is the kind of good natured embarrassment that often makes karaoke participation so popular. It's okay if you can't sing, because you'll be enjoyably shaming yourself with song and gestures — Esaki mentioned "David Lee Roth-style jumps" as something we may do in Lips — getting those who aren't singing get into the game.
One of Lips' biggest value propositions is its ability to stream in music from MP3 players, external hard drives and Windows Media Centre. When we saw the function at E3, it was still incomplete, with the promise of more information to come. According to Microsoft, your "digital rights management-free songs" will be supported by Lips, but that the title "won't be launching day one with any lyrics support." iNiS's Keiichi Yano told us at E3 that the developer had a "creative solution" coming, so we hope that this feature hasn't been dropped.
The interface for singing along with your off-soundtrack tunes will be slightly different from the core game. The Freestyle Mode will instead feature "virtual music videos" and a visualizer for melodic sing-along parts. Esaki told us that one of the more bizarre track selections he's currently playing is the Star Wars "Imperial March" theme.
It sounds like Lips has room to grow, because Esaki told us that Microsoft views the game as "a platform for experiences around music." Sound familiar?
That means that even though Avatar support isn't included out of the box, it may come in a future update.
The full Lips soundtrack is as follows.
a-ha "Take on Me"
Alicia Keys "No One"
Aly & AJ "Potential Break Up Song"
Avril Lavigne "Complicated"
Ben E. King "Stand by Me"
Blondie "Call Me"
Chris Brown "With You"
Depeche Mode "Personal Jesus"
Destiny's Child "Survivor"
Dido "White Flag"
Duran Duran "Hungry Like the Wolf"
John Denver "Take Me Home, Country Roads"
Johnny Cash "Ring of Fire"
Leona Lewis "Bleeding Love"
Lil' Mama "Lip Gloss"
Lupe Fiasco (featuring Matthew Santos) "Superstar"
Maroon 5 "Makes Me Wonder"
Nirvana "In Bloom"
Peter Bjorn and John "Young Folks"
Queen "Another One Bites the Dust"
R.E.M. "The One I Love"
Radiohead "Fake Plastic Trees"
The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated"
Rascal Flatts "Stand"
Roxette "Listen to Your Heart"
Sara Bareilles "Love Song"
Sheryl Crow "Soak Up the Sun"
Taylor Swift "I'm Only Me When I'm With You"
The Bangles "Walk Like an Egyptian"
The Fray "Over My Head (Cable Car)"
The Jackson 5 "ABC"
The Police "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
The Raveonettes "Love in a Trashcan"
Trace Adkins "Ladies Love Country Boys"
Weezer "Island in the Sun"
Young MC "Bust a Move"
Xbox Live Marketplace is set to feature Lips compatible music downloads at launch, but song pricing hasn't yet been revealed. Microsoft has confirmed that Estelle's "No Substitute Love" will be available from the Marketplace at launch.
Lips is planned to ship mid-November for the Xbox 360 at $US69.99, including two microphones.