We were really rather taken with Yoostar 2 when it released early last year. Despite many outlets dismissing the experience as banal and simplistic, we enjoyed the fact that it delivered on its premise of using Kinect to superimpose players into scenes from classic films; putting us directly into the movies in the most literal sense possible. Youtube, Facebook and Twitter functionality - along with a thriving user-moderated portal - allowed players to submit their own performances for all to see (and judge without mercy). A year on, and Yoostar On MTV plans to emulate the experience using licensed clips from MTV shows, music videos and award ceremonies instead of blockbuster silver screen hits.
Unfortunately, our rampant cynicism kicked in and alarm bells started ringing the moment we read the very first press release. Could this latest version simply be a lazy content pack cunningly disguised as a brand new game?
Well, no, as it turns out. Yoostar On MTV may have a similar objective as its predecessor and a suspect target audience, but it showcases brand new greenscreen tech that makes the action crisper and sharper than before. Since it's unofficially slated for an Spring 2012 release here in Europe (it's already out in the States), I was keen to have a go for myself.
Yoostar's Virtual Green Screen 2.0 tech is the real star of the show. Upon booting up the game, Kinect recognises players and allows you to fine-tune the visual quality in order to eradicate any ghosting, transparency or blurriness. The image quality is far superior to Yoostar 2, and taking a little time to choose the right preset results in a stable and defined outline. As you can plainly see from my screenshots, this was a real problem that has thankfully now been corrected in order to increase the sense of authenticity and immersion.
Once you've chosen a clip to star in, you'll have to calibrate Kinect for each scene. This took a while in Yoostar 2 as the sensor slowly tilted, tracked and zoomed, but the process is now nearly instantaneous thanks to both VGS 2.0 and Kinect's updated firmware. On the flipside, however, you'll have to step out of and back into shot before acting in each clip - it only takes a few seconds, but could potentially become fairly tiresome during long play sessions or parties. Once acquired, you'll simply need to take position and read out the onscreen lines... and eventually enjoy (or recoil in horror at) your recorded performance that can then be saved, uploaded or quickly deleted to avoid future embarrassment. Note that you won't need an Xbox 360 hard drive in order to upload clips to the cloud.
The tech is solid, then. Superb, even. But Yoostar On MTV will ultimately thrive or fail depending on the quality and quantity of available clips. The MTV license has been primarily used to secure a range of reality programming such as Pimp My Ride, Jersey Shore and The Hills, along with original programming such as the Teen Wolf series. Which I'm reliably informed are popular with people who have far too much time on their hands and an unhealthy obsession with vapid transatlantic non-entities.
Gah. Hmm. Right. To be fair, I'm absolutely not in the target audience for any of these shows, but the scenes I partipated in were heavy on dialogue and not much fun to perform. If you're an huge fan then you'll probably get a kick out of it, but frankly, MTV seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel and Yoostar has been forced to pick the best of a bad bunch. The final build will contain many more scenes, mind, and we'll need to watch this space as new licenses become available as DLC.
The music videos will be much better, though. Being able to star in and sing along to licensed tracks from the likes of Lady Gaga and Snoop Dogg is wholesome, honest fun; after all, even Singstar, Rock Band and We Sing can't hope to actually put you in an actual music video. It's going to be great for escapism, and never fear, dubbed versions will also be available if your vocal prowess isn't up to much.
Finally, freestyle award ceremonies allow you to vamp for sixty seconds in front of a virtual podium. Considering that you can crowd loads of people in front of the sensor and talk about literally anything, this mode is going to be fantastic for creating Youtube videos that go far beyond Yoostar's remit. Perhaps we'll present our 2012 Game Of The Year awards from a virtual stage?
Yoostar On MTV will be an interesting proposition when it releases in the UK. Its premise is sound, the tech is great and the experience seems to work extremely well, but whether the subject matter finds its niche target is another question entirely. Naturally we'll keep you posted and deliver our own critique in a full review down the line.