Driving in my car, which by the way has no air conditioning, to a car park, followed by a 10 minute walk to the tube station, all of which occurred before a 45 minute train journey with no water in sight, had put me in somewhat of a bad mood before I got to the welcoming PR company where we got to have a look at We Sing Encore. However, being somebody who rarely sings due to my incredibly poor grasp of vocal keys and pitch, I was shocked to discover that we were being led into small rooms containing a few complete strangers, with the expectation that we'd then be sitting around singing, or certainly in my case, murdering the tracks that are present on the set list. So, I flopped onto the sofa, quenched my thirst which also conveniently repaired my vocal cords, and picked up the microphone for an experience I'd been dreading. What then occurred was two hours of non-stop singing whilst we worked our way through the majority of singles and managed to have a great time doing so.
Unlike the Rock Bands and Guitar Heroes of the gaming world, this title is focused entirely on the vocal aspect of the music universe. You can have a maximum of 4 players singing at one time, although if you do you'll probably want to turn the volume of the microphones down, so that you're TV speakers are prevented from broadcasting a sound that'd cause a martians head to explode. The list of songs is made up of pop hits that span the last few decades, including stuff by Coldplay, Simply Red, and The Supremes, and you'll definitely find something on there that you can have a crack at. Unfortunately, the number of tracks seems incredibly sparse in comparison to Rock Band, and you'll only need a couple of hours to work your way through all of them.
There are no characters to choose from or extravagantly designed sets for you to perform on, instead the music videos for the singles play in the background and the words appear at the bottom of the screen, which really makes the game feel like a karaoke experience in the pub rather than converting you into an accomplished pop star. You can't fail the songs whilst singing them, so you'll have to work out how you're doing by the on-screen score, comments, and the breakdown of your performance, which you'll be provided with once you've reached the end.
The reviews of your attempts to copy your favourite pop legends, provide you with a lot of information and it's presented with brutal honesty, for example the number of notes that my group missed varied between 80 to 90 percent and I was told that my voice would not be missed by the world! One of the nice things about the feedback text is that it doesn't feel repetitive at all, in fact I can't remember receiving the same bit of criticism or praise for the duration that we were playing.
When you've got more than one person singing, the scores will start to adapt depending on the number of players, so it might be the case that you score more or less points depending on how many of your friends are accompanying you. You'll also be able to designate one person as lead singer and the rest will form the backing vocals. If you're going head to head with somebody else in versus mode then it pays to hit the parts of the song that multiply the score, x2, x5, etc., as they'll give you a massive advantage if your opponent misses them.
Once you narrow down your vision and really start to look at the game in detail, there are a couple of new features which certainly add to the singing experience, and I enjoyed two in particular. The first was a countdown timer for the songs in the top right hand corner of the screen, which not only allows you to work out how much effort you need to put in to beat a certain score, but also means that you're not sitting in suspense wondering when the song's going to end. The second are the singing lessons, which get progressively more difficult as you match the pitch of the singing scales you're presented with (do, ray, me, far, so, la, etc.), and which the producer of the game assured me were based on professional singing lessons and should improve your vocal performance not only in the game but also in real life.
On reflection, We Sing Encore is good fun and would make the perfect icebreaker in a situation where you don't quite know everybody but still want to have a laugh. Unlike Rock Band and Guitar Hero, I didn't find it too hard going on my voice and could easily have carried on past the two hour mark, but I'm still not convinced how accurately the technology matches your voice to what's considered to be correct.