Konami and Harmonix, two companies responsible for bringing rhythm games straight from the Japanese arcades to North American consoles, team up yet again in Karaoke Revolution Party, the mother of all peripheral collaborations. With dance pad, Xbox Live, microphone functionality, and more than 50 songs, it's the biggest, most wildly diverse home karaoke game yet. However, as with all of the previous games in the series, Karaoke Revolution Party is only as good as its music, which is, yet again, made up of songs so diverse that it will be hard to appease any one person for a long period of time. Despite the improvements, the numerous options still depend entirely on whether or not you enjoy the music selection. You'll probably find that in all these different modes, you'll be singing the same few songs in every one, which makes them not quite so different in the long run. Certainly devotees to karaoke will enjoy the changes that Revolution Party has to offer. But if you're anything less than diehard, you'll probably feel like this game, for all its options, is still too much of the same.
In Karaoke Revolution Party, you test your ability to successfully sing along with once-popular pop songs, rock ballads, and classic crooner hits. The original songs were not licensed for the game, so you'll be listening to generic cover artist adaptations instead. For the most part, this has little impact on the gameplay, since the discrepancies between the covers and originals are minimal. To sing, you'll need any Xbox microphone or headset peripheral. You can find these packaged with the game, or you can find them separately--they all work equally well.
The crux of the gameplay is a judging mechanism, which measures how well you're matching the song's pitch. This means that you can sing in any key you like, since you're not judged on anything other than pitch and the length that you hold the notes. Onscreen indicators are lines that correlate to note length and a small arrow that follows along with the music, which will rise above or fall below the line depending on whether or not you're sharp or flat. If you've missed the note entirely, the arrow will fall off the screen. So you can, if you've got the desire and the humility, slide up or down the vocal scale until the arrow reappears. The four difficulty modes don't impact the song, but the more-challenging modes will tighten up the judging requirements.
Although you can jump into the gameplay at any time and just start singing, Karaoke Revolution Party's special distinction is that there are about as many modes as you can think of to go about doing it. Using either one or two microphones, you can sing solo songs, duets, melodies of all sorts, and compete individually or in teams against other people. There are also gameplay modes that let you knock out the competition, or trade off the vocal riffs midsong. While it's interesting to play around with the different types of competitions and find the style that most suits your party's needs, you'll likely stick with one particular mode, like the one-mic party arcade option or the two-mic party duet option, which lets you unlock new items and compare scores without too much loading in and out of the menus. As you play through one of these modes, earning gold and platinum records, you'll automatically unlock new karaoke avatars, outfits for them, and songs along the way. Unlockables come from completing different challenges, like getting a perfect duet performance, acquiring 10 platinum records, or reaching 100,000 points. You can also try your hand at the minigames, which require you to navigate volleyball players, stage divers, and a solo artist using the sound of your voice. The minigames are a funny diversion, but they're not worth playing for more than a few minutes.
Brand new to Karaoke Revolution Party is sing and dance mode, which can be played by plugging any compatible dance mat into the system and stepping out the notes while you sing. Different difficulties can be set for the singing, judging, and dancing, so you don't have to be equally proficient in any of them. While this is the natural next step for a karaoke game (and it does provide an interesting new challenge), sing and dance mode is limited by the restrictions of corded headsets. You'll have to set up your system a specific way so that you can comfortably sing and dance at the same time, which may involve removing it from its natural position in a home entertainment system. You can do this well enough, but you won't exactly feel like a pop star singing and dancing onstage.
The Xbox version of the game incorporates Xbox Live support as well, although it's strictly for the purpose of downloading more songs, for a fee, of course. Through Live, you'll be able to download quite a few songs, many of which were available in the previous Karaoke Revolution games, and some that are specific to sing and dance and duet modes. Though, it will depend entirely on you whether or not the songs are worth the price of download, it's nice to have the option. This makes the Xbox version of the game by far the most valuable version, especially if you've never owned any of the Karaoke Revolution games before.
In this game, you can select a personal avatar, and then change hairstyles and outfits accordingly. The avatars will sing along with you in-game, swaying and bopping to the music when appropriate. They are little more than graphical enhancements, and for that, they do the job well enough. There are quite a few customizable options for the avatars, and you can unlock more over time. But when all is said and done, they don't have a huge impact on the game.
The diversity of the initial song list works both for and against the game. It ensures that everyone will find at least one or two songs that they enjoy singing to, but it also means that it's difficult to imagine one person finding many more than five or 10 songs. Karaoke enthusiasts might appreciate the challenge required to learn new songs and then sing them perfectly. But if you don't like that song in the first place, then it's hard to force yourself to get through it. While Karaoke Revolution Party definitely ups the ante as far as these types of games go, it's still held back by the natural limitations of the genre. This makes for a good pick-up-and-play game, especially when there are a couple of people around to enjoy it with. If you don't have a previous version of the game, then this is probably the one to get before all the others (though it doesn't make any significant changes to the franchise). All of the additional options and modes definitely make this the biggest game in the series, but diversity in this particular kind of game doesn't necessarily make it stronger. The few changes here don't make it a must-have if you already have other games in the franchise.