Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Disney Interactive Studios
ESRB rating: Everyone
Release Date: Available now
YouTube was seemingly invented for times like these. With so many music-rhythm games on the market, it’s inevitable that grown game critics like myself are going to find their aspirations toward higher office dashed when leaked footage of our best Taylor Swift imitation goes viral. That said, there is a huge market for these karaoke jams and its one that Disney Interactive has mined successfully, giving the same fans that made stars out of the High School Musical kids a chance to exercise their pipes in the popular series, Disney Sing It. The latest release, Pop Hits, provides some new tracks to warble the night away.
Disney Sing It: Pop Hits is essentially an expansion disc to last year’s original Disney Sing It title. The game remains the same but provides 30 new songs, culled from artists who have steady airplay on Radio Disney. Therefore, fans of the series or the music can expect to find some of their favorites like Taylor Swift, Ashley Tisdale, and The Jonas Brothers as well as some tracks from Disney Channel hit movies, such as Camp Rock. You’ll also find a few tracks from pop bands such as The Black Eyed Peas and Coldplay.
The game adopts the standard interface we’ve experienced in other music games, with lyrics appearing on the bottom of the screen. In karaoke style, the player sings along with the lyrics – attempting to modulate their voice in order to keep proper tone and pitch. The package contains one USB microphone (although the disc can be purchased without it). In addition, the game supports two mics for duet and battle modes. The latter allows singers to battle for points, with one mode utilizing a Final Jeopardy-esque device of wagering points before attempting to nail a song. Adding greater challenge is the You’re on Your Own mode which removes all display elements with the exception of lyrics and has you battle a friend to sing a song better than they can, with the game providing a verdict at the conclusion of each throwdown.
Disney Sing It: Pop Hits is a capable expansion of the original game that provides fans with more songs for their track list. Unfortunately, it lacks the ability to swap discs on the fly, meaning players are faced with exiting the game and firing up a second disc should they decide they want to tackle a song from that library. That’s a huge miss in the rhythm genre; where so many of these games lend themselves towards karaoke party nights. Being able to simply access all songs you own across the entire enterprise would eliminate that frustration factor. As this series skews less mature, you’re bound to find younger fans at your holiday gathering aching to sing one of the character songs off an earlier disc, and that just drags the party to a halt when you need to stop and replace after each singer picks their favorite tune to croon.
From a design perspective, Disney has crafted a decent looking game. Aside from the inability to access other songs in the series, they have made some nice intuitive changes including the ability to set track lists off this disc’s library – eliminating the need to pop back out to the menu after each selection. While solo players will blast through the 30 tunes listed here, the duet and battle modes do lend themselves to some friendly competitive situations. These games are always more fun with company. That said, the lack of any online presence in this age is a huge flaw. There’s no online matchmaking, duets or the ability to purchase or import tracks from the series. The Wii has stumbled on the online front in the past but as Harmonix showed with their Rock Band 2 release a couple years back, there is a hungry and growing audience that savors the ability to snag more tracks off the web.
Ultimately this comes down to being an overpriced expansion pack. Sure, Rock Band has had success on the Wii, releasing themed packs at retail, but they’ve done so at a discounted price. Without much changed here aside from the new songs, $50 seems a little steep for a microphone and glorified track list ($30 if you just want the disc). Thorough integration with the other discs in the Disney Sing It catalog would go a long way to remedy that but as it stands, unless you are really jonesing for The Jonas Brothers, it’s hard to recommend you sing loudly for this one.