There's a strange sight in my household right now. I'm sat on the sofa playing Now That’s What I Call Sing
while belting out notes into a microphone. However, there's not a single sound coming out of the TV. Instead, I sit there wearing gaming headphones, all sound being fed through there as the picture in the background wordlessly mouths Meghan Trainor's "All About The Bass". This isn't an effort to reduce the noise nuisance to my next door neighbour. After all, there's nothing to cover up the tuneless moments or the fact that I sang the wrong words. Instead, this is an effort to give this game the fairest review possible.
As a fan of any type of music game can tell you, lag is a killer. Just half a second's lag between the picture and sound can be enough of a difference to make sure that you never make it to the end of the song, having failed out by time that the second verse rolls around. The good news is that NTWICS
doesn't have a fail option. The 0.7 second lag offered by my TV is, however, enough to annihilate any chance of getting a decent score. The game suggests changing your TV to Game mode to combat any lag but this made things worse, and there is no calibration option either. Thus we have the situation in which I currently find myself. Still, at least I don't have lag anymore.
If you hadn't realised by now, NTWICS
is the latest karaoke game to hit the market in Europe. It is the only karaoke title that is available on the Xbox One. The game offers 30 tracks for players to sing, all of which are unlocked for use from the first time that you load up the game. Players who keep up with the latest musical trends will be pleased with the selection of titles in this game as there is a heavy pop / dance influenced soundtrack that was mostly released after 2013. You have the titles that have become instant karaoke classics, such as Demi Lovato's "Let It Go" or Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk", but then you also have some rather bizarre choices. You question the inclusion of a track like Calvin Harris' "Summer", which features just 80 seconds of singing throughout its 4 minute entirety. Still, you could probably go and fetch a drink during the long musical interludes.
Choose your poison. Just don't Let It Go too often.
On the other hand, players who don't listen to the latest charts may struggle. Only two tracks were released prior to 2010, namely James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" and Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love". There is no hip-hop and the closest that you will get to rock is indie darlings Maroon 5 or Coldplay. The chances of this game being of much use at a large gathering are slim as the track listing just isn't diverse enough to entertain everybody. However, for a small group of like-minded friends, it is ideal.
Having selected your song of choice, you're immediately faced with a choice of two game modes that can accommodate up to four microphones. There's the traditional Classic mode in which players simply sing along to the song, or there is Pass The Mic mode where multiple players share one microphone. Once you start, the song presentation is quite intuitive. The lyrics appear line by line at the bottom of the screen next to your score, while your tonal accuracy is represented by a line that will fill with colour if you hit the note perfectly. Occasionally one of the notes will turn gold and players are challenged to hit these for a point bonus. Finally, a line across the middle of the screen will mark your progress through the song. If you have ever played PlayStation's SingStar
franchise then you will know exactly what to expect as the two games' presentations are virtually identical.
Went face to face with all our fears
Once players meet certain criteria as they sing the song, more game modes are unlocked. There is Duet mode where you can plug in multiple microphones and take turns singing different parts of the song. Karaoke aficionados who prefer a challenge may instead be interested in By Heart mode, which is the same as Classic mode only with players having to remember the words when presented with the occasional missing line of lyrics. Then there is Expert mode where there are no lyrics or tonal markers; at this point you must truly sing the song by heart. In all of the modes mentioned so far, all that matters is your score and, at this point, it is purely a matter of pride. As mentioned previously, there is no failure in NTWICS
. It is perfectly feasible to finish a song with a grand score of zero points, having not sung a single word; in fact, there's even an achievement for it. Be prepared for your friends to laugh at you though.
Those with a more competitive streak will likely be more interested in the final two modes. 20,000! pits players against one another to be the first to score 20,000 points in your chosen song. Finally, Elimination is a fight to survive. Players start with a pot of points that are gradually deducted for a less than perfect performance. As can be expected, these modes are a lot shorter and are perfect for when you're short on time. Of course, meeting some of the criteria does require some skill. Those who classify themselves as tone deaf won't stand a chance of unlocking the mode that requires five consecutive perfect phrases on Expert mode, for example. This is where VoxPoints come in. At the end of the song, you're awarded VoxPoints depending on how well you performed and these points can be used to unlock game modes on each song. Actually, that's their only purpose, but at least there is an alternative for everybody of any ability to be able to participate in all parts of the game.
Can you remember the words?
Having said that the tone deaf would struggle, the game is a little forgiving when it comes to exact tuning. It also concentrates on notes rather than the actual words that you are singing, meaning that it is possible to sing the wrong words in the correct notes and still get a perfect score. The game's pretty large fault, though, is its inability to pick up high notes no matter how loudly you sing them, or whether using a game headset or a USB microphone. This is especially problematic when the song has a high percentage of high notes, like Sia's "Chandelier". The only way that this can be countered is to sing the notes an octave lower than they were intended, but you do wonder how this managed to make it through QA testing.
There are the standard achievements for trying every song and every game mode. However, there are some that will involve a fair amount of grinding, such as finishing 150 songs or gathering 500 VoxPoints. Finally, there are the ones that will take a decent singing ability to be able to achieve. There is no way that you will get 120,000 points on a song, or survive a song in Elimination mode without being able to sing that song near-perfectly. Those with little singing ability will not be able to complete this title.
SummaryNow That's What I Call Sing
is the first karaoke title to hit the Xbox One, but a lot of people may choose to give this one a miss. A narrow selection of songs that is restricted to just a couple of music types makes this game a choice for like-minded friends rather than a large gathering of different people. There are plenty of game modes to try and a presentation that is friendly for karaoke novices, especially when there is no fail option to discourage people before they've even begun. The main problem, though, is that the game cannot recognise high notes regardless of your microphone. The only way that you'll be able to get a high score and unlock all of the achievements is if you can sing comfortably in mid-range, and not many can do this.
- Friendly presentation
- Good selection of game modes
- Song choice isn't diverse
- Can't register high notes
The reviewer spent six hours belting her heart out / strangling a cat to earn 29 of the game's 37 achievements. She needs a lot more practice before she'll ever be able to get all of the achievements and Let It Go. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.