Developer: Nordic Games
I've got a lot of love for Nordic Games' We Sing series. There's nothing more cathartic than being able to bellow out your favourite songs, especially in front of a group of slightly tipsy friends, and the plucky publisher has weathered the storm of bigger-budget competitors to keep on providing fun karaoke titles on Nintendo's ailing console. With UK Hits, Robbie Williams and Pop already on the shelves - not to mention the surprisingly brilliant We Sing Rock that packs one of the best music game setlists ever assembled - Nordic are looking to the 80s for their next singalong song selection.
The formula and foundation still remains unchanged after years of iteration. You can sing songs in singleplayer, learn the ropes via some singing lessons and strive for achievement-esque challenges. Music videos can be viewed in full using a virtual jukebox, while the meat of the package is to be found in a bevy of cooperative and competitive multiplayer gametypes for up to four simultaneous crooners. Tone detection works well, the interface is slick and intuitive and queuing up a playlist is absolutely effortless. If it ain't broke, it doesn't need fixing, and We Sing's framework is absolutely fit for task.
What matters, then, is the setlist - and We Sing 80s has some great source material to draw upon. The decade may have resulted in some utter disasters and copious amounts of cheese, but it also brought us any number of bona fide anthems that we still hum along to today. The likes of Bon Jovi's Living On A Prayer. Take On Me. White Wedding. Tainted Love. Sledgehammer. Hungry like the Wolf. Love Shack. Every Breath You Take. In the Air Tonight. And so many more besides.
None of which make an appearance here. Depressingly, We Sing 80s had the opportunity to provide a 'greatest hits' collection, but ended up resembling one of those cheap and nasty compilations you'll find in motorway service stations that sandwiches a few standout classics between mediocre filler.
Here's the full track list so you can follow along.
My criticisms are twofold, based on both my experience reviewing music games and my experience at publicly embarrassing myself during Karaoke sessions. Half of the songs are either utter classics such as Toto's Africa, Queen's I Want To Break Free and the evergreen pub chant Come On Eileen, or at least shameless cheese (Tarzan Boy and T'Pau, anyone?), but a hefty proportion of the tracks are not much fun to sing; featuring dirge-like repetitive melodies, little variation and challenge. Do You Want To Hurt Me, for example, is just not an enjoyable song from a vocal standpoint - you'll rarely see it headline on a Karaoke setlist, so its appearance here is perplexing to say the least. It's just a drop in the ocean, too, flanked as it is by the overlong full version of Word Up, Sade's Smooth Operator and Cyndi Lauper's True Colours. I'm not saying that they're bad songs; they're just an odd inclusion in a karaoke game.
Worse, many of the songs contain an inordinate amount of downtime, often a solo or overlong synth section that lasts for upwards of 20-30 seconds or more. In a Rock Band or Guitar Hero game, the singer can clap along to while away the time, but here you simply have to stop singing and wait. And wait. Rio by Duran Duran may be a cracking song to listen to, but nearly half of it is instrumental. Again, the song selection is an inconsistent choice for a music game, pure and simple.
On the plus side, a few of the tracks let players choose from multiple vocal parts, allowing us to harmonise in duets. Belting out Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, for example, allows you to assume the role of either Albert Hammond or Diane Warren, and it's a blast. I personally wish that all of the songs had this functionality.
But it's not enough to distract from We Sing 80s' major failing: the omissions. The shameful, outrageous omissions. On a whim, I browsed over to VH1's list of top 100 80s songs just to remind myself that, frankly, there were so many better songs out there from the excessive, consumerist decade. For the sake of full disclosure, I was born in the eighties, but I know and remember enough to realise that what is included in We Sing 80s is eclipsed by what isn't. Indeed, I could fill an entire article with songs that should have taken precedent, so it's probably for the best that I mentioned a few of them above. Seriously, though: no Tainted Love, no dice. And Sledgehammer? Where's freaking Sledgehammer?!!?
It's also worth noting that the eighties delivered a huge amount of classic rock, both of the hard and metal varieties. Where's Alice Cooper? Where's Robert Palmer? Where's Whitesnake, Motorhead and Def Leppard?
I'll tell you exactly where they are. They're in We Sing Rock. Not only did this superior collection provide a much more enjoyable tracklist, but it also delivered ten more songs and incrementally better value.
“The tracklist is everything you would wish for on an 80s Greatest Hits album, it is crammed full of 80s magic that made the music of the decade so endearing,” said Nordic Games' Nik Blower when We Sing 80s released. Despite a few definite hits, I'm not sure I agree.
- Solid tone recognition, full music videos to watch while you sing
- Slick interface honed through years of iteration
- A few fun and cheesy classics to belt out
- Inconsistent setlist with lots of filler and downtime
- 30 songs compared to 40 in previous releases
- So many painful omissions
The Short Version: We Sing 80s gets dragged down by an unambitious setlist that neither capitalises on the gleeful cheesy excess of its source material, nor provides a consistently enjoyable selection of singalong hits. Diehard fans of eighties music might well glean some cathartic enjoyment from it, but I fear that even they will notice the gaping holes in the lineup.
Buy We Sing Rock if you want to sing some awesome tunes, or Double Dragon Neon if you're seeking a nostalgic thrill.