What happens when you add a guitar track to Sony's Singstar? You get half of Rock Band, and not the particularly fun half.
Imagine Rock Band or Guitar Hero's guitar portions, without the flashy backgrounds, star power mechanics or decorative note highways, and you've got Singstar Guitar. It's Singstar, with a no-frills guitar track added to the mix.
I gave this Singstar add-on a try at the Sony press event in Germany last night, shortly after my go with the much more interesting and potentially embarrassing Singstar Dance. Once again I found myself between two singing Sony handlers, with a fellow member of the game press taking up the second guitar controller to provide backup.
At least that's how it went in my mind.
Any guitar controller that works with the PlayStation 3 works with Singstar Guitar. In this case, Sony spent a pretty penny on a pair of wooden Logitech models, which have a very lovely heft when compared to your standard plastic controllers.
The first song was my choice, and I chose that one song from Paramore. I think it's called "Crush Crush Crush"? That's what the cool kids call it. God I am getting old.
I love the presentation in Singstar, with the music video playing full-screen as you sing along, but it doesn't quite work when you're playing the guitar, especially with two players. The two minimalist note highways are crammed on top of each other on the left hand of the screen, feeling very much like an afterthought instead of a fully realised feature.
There are no separate bass, lead or rhythm guitar selection. The tracks only vary with different difficulty levels, so if you and your fellow guitarist are playing on the same difficulty, you're playing exactly the same notes.
This time around I was on medium, and my co-star was on beginner, so I stumbled through some of the tougher parts of the tune while he picked easily through his rendition. I am pretty sure the yellow fret button on my controller was sticking as well, which didn't help matters.
The track flowed pretty naturally, easily comparable to similar difficulty level versions of the song on Rock Band, but without the Rock Band bells and whistles, the experience was rather tame. The omission of any sort of star power mechanic strips away a large portion of what little complexity guitar video games normally possess. If I don't need to tilt my instrument or hit the whammy bar, I might as well be playing with a Dual Shock controller.
My partner and I picked through "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash before putting down the controllers and moving on, the fine music not changing my overall impression of Singstar Guitar. It's half of what it needs to be, and what it needs to be already exists in several different forms.
That's not to say it's not a nice addition to Singstar. Just don't expect a Rock Band replacement; this isn't it.