KARAOKE REVOLUTION PRESENTS AMERICAN IDOL
(Konami; PlayStation 2; Everyone)
It’s a sad truth that there are more William Hungs than Kelly Clarksons in this world, but even the most tone deaf of crooners should have a blast playing this videogame version of Fox’s relentlessly popular TV show. Karaoke Revolution, already a terrific game franchise, has smartly teamed up with AI for this latest version in the series, and for the most part it’s an irresistible duet.
KR: AI retains the same gameplay engine that detects if the notes you’re singing into the microphone (an optional accessory) are actually delivered in the proper key. The game is also dressed up with lotsa AI frills: the show’s catchy theme song, the strange Ryan Seacrest-isms, the cheesy hotel ballrooms, and best of all, the judges’ table. Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson are represented by their decent digital counterparts, but Paula Abdul is conspicuously absent, replaced by a generic-looking understudy named Laura (who just happens to share Paula’s more, uh, forgiving critical sensibilties).
It’s not too hard to cruise through the competition’s eight rounds and win the whole enchilada when playing at the easiest skill level (and by taking advantage of the game’s inability to distinguish between singing and humming). Still, Simon and Randy can be harsh in their judgments — even by real-life Simon’s standards — especially if you run out of steam and commit the mortal sin of ending a song on a sour note. There’s a fair amount of variety to their computer-generated phrases though, and in a perverse way, you’ll never get tired of hearing Simon singling out your performance as ”AHB-solutely ah-PALL-ing!”
KR: AI offers a much better mix of classic and contemporary songs than its predecessors. There’s even a cover of ”She Bangs” for fans dying to see if they can out-Hung the off-key master. The tunes expose the major flaw with the series, however: you can easily blow through all of the game’s 40 tracks in one sitting, especially if you have the help of a few willing (and inebriated) friends. There’s also an almost inexcusable shortage of songs from AI alums: The list begins and ends with Kelly Clarkson’s ”Breakaway.” What’s that noise? Ohh…so this is what it sounds like when Clay Aiken fans cry. B+ —Gary Eng Walk
EVERY EXTEND EXTRA
(Buena Vista; Sony PSP; Everyone)
More than a year into the PSP’s life, the Tetris-style puzzle game Lumines remains the most addictive, if not overall best, title for Sony’s handheld. While not quite reaching that game’s heights, Every Extend Extra (developed from the same company behind Lumines) offers a fascinating twist on brain-teaser-style gameplay.
EEE doesn’t bother with plot or story: You start the game. You blow yourself up (along with your adjacent enemies). And repeat. But there are a few kinks behind this seemingly straightforward premise: Each level must be completed within a certain time limit. (Today’s adolescents, with their finely honed fast-twitch muscles, should do well.)
We liked — then grew quickly frustrated with — the constantly escalating difficulty level that rises, tantalizingly, just ahead of your own abilities. And the less said about an unlockable level (that offers no clues as to how to access it) the better. Still, the game is mostly a triumph, at least one of design. From the psychedelic aesthetic of the levels to its austere presentation, Every Extend Extra offers PSP owners yet another cool mind-bending experience. B —Evan Narcisse