Platform: PS3 (PSN, free client download/trial) | Other platforms TBA
Developer: SingOn Inc.
SingOn feels like the next generation of living room karaoke.
If you want to sing without complications, fuss or spending much money, this revolutionary Finnish upstart is pretty much everything you could want. It's a streaming service client as opposed to a locked-in boxed game, granting you access to hundreds and hundreds of songs that are updated on a weekly basis, always including the very latest charts alongside rock, jazz, cheese, rap, film classics and even Finnish folk music. Every decade is represented, every genre has plenty of choice on offer, and it's all delivered on our terms.
£2.99 nets you full access to the entire library for three hours, more than enough for an evening of crooning, letting you stream and sing to your heart's content while laying out considerably less than the cost of a London pint. Or an entire weekend sorted for £5.99. The days of having to spend £40 on a limited selection of tracks, many of which you won't like and will never sing, are well and truly over. If you've got a microphone, a PS3 and an internet connection, it's game on.
However, SingOn is more of a karaoke machine than a karaoke game - and it's clear that the service still has a way to go before it can cement its place in the lounge.
Once you've installed the free 80MB download, SingOn is a breeze to navigate. Its tracklists can be browsed by decade, genre, artist or text searches via a slick and intuitive interface, which allows you to effortlessly queue up playlists using a controller or free companion app. The latter option really nails the Karaoke machine appeal and makes browsing a cinch.
Music games live or die on the strength of their setlist, so I'm delighted to report that SingOn will thrive. Continually-updated chart toppers let us stay on trend with the likes of Dark Horse (Katy Perry), Happy (Pharrell Williams), Rather Be (Clean Bandit) and She Looks So Perfect (5 Seconds Of Summer) - yet as a fan of rock and blues, you'll find me growling out the likes of Mustang Sally, The Stranger by Deep Purple and Back In Black. Followed up by Hakuna Matata and Don't Stop Me Now. There's everything in between, too, from hip-hop to Sinatra and more besides.
The beauty of SingOn is that you can sing whatever you want, whenever you want, rather than having to pick and choose from a limited selection. Its setlist still has plenty of room to grow in all directions (some artists only have a handful of songs as opposed to full albums), but in terms of music games, it's effectively the next logical leap forward. A revolution that always stays current, not an incremental stagger sideways.
Why buy DLC when we can just get all of it, when we want it, for £3?
In terms of the all-important singing, SingOn is as slick and straightforward as its menus. You'll holler out the lyrics as they glow and pulse across the screen in crisp clear fonts, arranged to give you an idea of the relative pitch of each note. An auto-tune mode can be used to digitally push the pitch of your voice towards the actual music, often with hilarious results, while a robot setting makes you sound like T-Pain on a bad day. Though a little echoey, it works well, and more competitive players can strive to reach various scoring thresholds and star ratings.
And that's pretty much it. See, though you're scored for each song, it's designed to be incredibly generous and accessible to singers of all ability levels - you'll have to work very hard to get less than four out of five stars. There's no metagame, trophies or unlock structure whatsoever, rather the experience is based entirely on the joy of singing, badly, in a room full of friends. What you see is what you get, and that's ultimately fine by us.
What's ultimately holding SingOn back, unfortunately, are some glaring missing or undeveloped features.
The singing may be competent and serviceable (beyond a little delay depending on your TV and connection), but the experience is rather bare-bones at launch. All-important visualisations are uninspiring and not particularly eyecatching, lacking the personality you'd normally expect from a music game and bereft of licensed videos. Whoever thought that grey backgrounds was a good idea needs a stern talking to. Put simply, it's far too clinical and soulless for what ought to be the centrepiece of a party. It could learn a thing or two from Karaoke U - though at least SingOn isn't full of covers.
Worse, SingOn is not the best fit for a party thanks to the bewildering lack of multiplayer options. I can't get my head around this fundamental yet tragic omission.
The great thing about a client-based service is that it's free to evolve and add features over the coming months, not just tracks, and the passionate developers are keen to do just that. Multiplayer functionality is a matter of priority, as is beefing up the visual flair. SingOn will evolve and grow, keeping up with the latest charts, all while making its way to other platforms, both in terms of last-gen machines, next-gen consoles, Smart TVs and even set-top box microconsoles such as the Amazon Fire TV.
It's fascinating, but right now, SingOn's competent launch is overshadowed by its clear future potential. We hope that the gap will close in time.
- Comprehensive streaming track list numerous genres, artists and decades
- Nifty pricing model grant us full access when we want it... for £3-£6
- Slick and intuitive interface; convenient smartphone app
- Too businesslike and clinical for its own good, desperately needs more eyecatching visualisations
- No two-player functionality at launch
- Lacks metagame
The Short Version: SingOn could make traditional music games obsolete by granting us full access to hundreds of varied songs to howl, scream and croon along to. On our terms. For pocket change.
So long as you have a PS3, USB microphone and an internet connection, it's a convenient way of experiencing a constantly-updating setlist from chart-toppers to cheese, but will need to offer more visual flair, personality and multiplayer options to draw us in for more than the occasional evening. We look forward to seeing how it evolves over the coming months, and whether what is currently a streaming karaoke machine can realise its potential as a massive cross-platform music game.
As a client-based service that offers numerous pricing options alongside a evolving selection of tracks and features, I can't assign a numerical score to SingOn. Since it's free to try, though, I don't really need to.