With the popularity of music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band waning, could karaoke for movies be the next party game sensation? Yoostar2, a video game that puts players in famous movie scenes, makes a bold attempt to do so.
Likening Yoostar2 to games that use guitar, drums and keyboard controllers may not be the ideal comparison. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game shares many qualities of another recent music title, rap-along game Def Jam Rapstar. Both games are about capturing performances. Both games favour the freestyler more than a Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Both feature extensive uploading tools and community features. Both should not be played by shy people.
Yoostar2 is about acting out movie scenes. Using the PS3's PlayStation Eye or Xbox 360's Kinect, the game inserts its players into scenes where actors have been digitally erased. Play the role of the Terminator, replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or belt out your best Leonidas from 300. Or pair up to play as Shaun and Ed from Shaun of the Dead, Cheech and Chong, or the Blues Brothers.
It's a simple concept, sometimes made better when you flub a line or improvise.
During a recent demo of Yoostar2, playing the PlayStation 3 version, I acted my way through scenes as Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride (hard!) and the T-1000 from The Terminator (very easy). I watched as Yoostar reps acted like Mike Tyson from The Hangover and Rocky Balboa's son.
The set up was straightforward using the PlayStation Eye; let the camera take a shot of the background, step inside the outline from which the original actor was removed, follow the onscreen prompts. Your dialogue is presented to you, with a karaoke style bar, showing you when to start and stop delivering a line, should you not know the pacing of the original delivery.
At the end of each scene—some run seconds, others a minute or two - you'll be scored on your line reading and performance. Read a few lines off cue and you'll be penalised. Stand there stiffly and you'll lose points. You have to get into it, shed any sense of embarrassment if you want to succeed.
And if you're really brave, you can upload your performance clips to the internet for others to watch and rate, broadcasting the release of those clips to Facebook and Twitter. The Yoostar2 folks uploaded a performance to their internal network, with compression and uploading taking under a minute to process.
Those uploads will be moderated by a team of clip watchers who will police content 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The game's creators expect about a 10 minute turnaround between when a clip is made, uploaded and moderated for it to go public. When it does, others can watch and assess clips, earning Yoostar2 players fans and "Fame".
From what we saw of Yoostar2, there's a good breadth of content available, from movies to television shows (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mad Men, CSI - sadly, no CSI: Miami scenes with David Caruso sliding on sunglasses). Budding video game actors can also improvise on "Hollywood Sets" lifted from Gladiator, Top Gun, The Matrix, Scarface and more, perhaps if they'd like to deliver an extended impression of Tony Montana or Neo.
Yoostar2's makers hope to follow the downloadable content model established by the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games with movie scenes that can be purchased from an in-game store. The built-in content looks robust, but personal movie taste will be a factor. You may like Ben Stiller, but you may not be an Along Came Polly or Meet The Fockers fan.
As a concept, Yoostar2 looks like it could be a blast, given the right conditions. "Lighting is key", its creators stressed, to get a good performance out of the Kinect and PlayStation Eye cameras. Even during a nearly ideal lighting set up, one tweaked by Yoostar2 reps, the software's background subtraction detection was occasionally spotty. It didn't affect the enjoyment of playing Yoostar2, just the visuals.
There's some set up involved in playing a round of Yoostar2, which may make it not as immediately accessible as playing, say Rock Band, with your friends. A Quick Play mode with a customisable playlist helps to alleviate some of that slowness.
Yoostar2 is expected to ship for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by the end of February 2011.