At my house, karaoke is king. Although Rock Band and Guitar Hero jam sessions sporadically break out, most participants prefer picking up a microphone and intuitively belting out a song, rather than worrying about the intricacies of star power, whammy bars, and hammer-ons. Since even the youngest gamers know the lyrics to at least a few songs, the barrier of entry to karaoke lowered, allowing even pre-literate six-years olds to compete in a SingStar or Lips session. However, the youngsters often have a limited musical repertoire, meaning the other players in the room soon tire of hearing the same handful of pop hits.
Disney’s solution to this is the Sing It series, a series which combines the mechanics of the well-liked Singstar franchise with popular music selection from the studio. Up till now, the Sing It games have offered song lists populated by artists such as the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, and Taylor Swift- meaning most adults were at a serious disadvantage in the competitions. With the release of Disney Sing It: Family Hits, developers Zoe Mode (who has created two SingStar titles) infused the soundtrack with tunes from twenty classic and contemporary films, evening the field for all players.
After choosing one of the six game modes which range from straightforward competitions to friendly rivalries which pit individuals or teams against each other, players select one of the game’s thirty songs and a difficulty level. Once the music starts, participants are tasked with singing each song ‘on-key’. Giving gamers immediate feedback, the player’s pitch is measured against the actual singer’s tone- match the pitch perfectly and you’ll score a plethora of points. Luckily, players with a soprano or baritone range may sing in a different key, allowing even bass-heavy crooners to choose a song like Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World.”
A few entertaining extras elevate Family Hits above the routine singing game. My nieces particularly enjoyed listening to their performances, especially when they could tweak their voice to sound like robots, lions, or aliens. After each song, vocalists are rated on a five star scale, and issued awards based on their ability. While these additional rewards create excitement, most are named ambiguously, forcing players to head to the option screen for a better understanding. All vocal-based games should emulate Family Hits’ handy auto-calibration function, which adjusts for a lag-free experience.
Despite the overall quality of Family Hits, a few niggling concerns detract from the package. One of the biggest concerns is variable levels sound mixing found on the disk. Beauty and the Beast‘s, “Be Our Guest” is the worst offender- even with the microphone level turned all the way down and the television volume maximized, players vocals drowned the actual music. Secondly, gamers are only fed two short lines of lyrics at a time, making keeping up with the hurried tempo of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or the scatting of “I Wanna Be Like You” a challenge even for accomplished readers. Although Family Hits roster pulls from a range of films and era, I would have gladly traded one of the four Cinderella songs for a classic such as “When You Wish Upon a Star” or “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat.”
Players expecting uncut video sequences to accompany each song may be slightly disappointed by Family Hits’ occasional use of montage. Since some of the source material had bits of dialog intermixed with the music, the use of editing is understandable. Even the most fastidious player will be impressed by the quality of the video compression for each song- the game’s remarkably forgoes the artifacting and graininess typically associated with the playback of animated sequences on the Wii.
Like Toy Story 3, Disney Sing It: Family Hits is another instance of one the rare games that will appeal to a broad range of players. Once players looks past the title’s uneven sound mixing and uneven selection of music, they’ll find the first karaoke game which both adults and children can enjoy. With Family Hits, Disney offers an interactive diversion which impressively complements its timeless films.