Now! That’s What I Call Music! Dance & Sing – Wii Review

I do believe that at the headquarters for Now! That’s What I Call Music – I do hope it’s called Now! That’s What I Call A Place To Work – they’ve recently employed two people.

The first would be someone in charge of increasing their brand identity. It wasn’t long since the only extra thing you’d get on top of the thrice-yearly releases of CD compilations from the company would be the occasional annual release of the best songs of that year, but recently we’ve been treated to DVDs, releases focused on Hip-Hop or Christmas or some other genre, Spotify-exclusive playlists, or one of many other off-shoots. It’s only a matter of time before we get a breakfast cereal (“Now! That’s What I Call Muesli”) or their own band (“Now! That’s What I Call Muse”). Possibly.

The other person they’ve employed must be a mad scientist, because their latest brand extension is into the world of video games, and one that is a splicing together of two popular franchises: the karaoke game and the dancing game. Think of this, Now! That’s What I Call Music: Dance & Sing, as the child of Just Dance and SingStar or Just Dance grafted onto We Sing to form a conjoined creation.

But is what they’ve created an abomination or a monster of a game? Well, that all depends on your age, likes, number of friends you have and desire to make a fool of yourself! Luckily, I fit nicely into that last category so I’m at home with this game.

Dance and Sing, as I’ll call it from now on as my fingers hurt from writing the whole title, is split into three sections. I’ll give you two guesses what the first two are. The third is ‘Career’.

I am most at home in the ‘Sing’ category so I’ll start there. You can choose to sing either ‘Solo’ or ‘Party’. Solo is, naturally, the home for those who like to sing on their own for fear of embarrassment (or to practice their skills of course!) and party is for up to four player action, from a ‘head 2 head’ battle with a friend to see who can score the most; ‘duet’ where you play together with a friend for a combined score; and ‘Up to 4’ which is for two teams of two in a pass-the-mic move. Sadly, no four player games here if you are a real karaoke fan and have the We Sing adaptor and four microphones. (It should be noted that Dance and Sing doesn’t come with microphones so a purchase of some USB microphones is necessary if you don’t already own them).

The singing interface is very much like any other console-based karaoke game you play. Lyrics come up on the screen in front of the official music video – all thirty tracks on this game come with said promo clip – with each word also expressed as a bar reflecting the length of the note and the pitch. You are scored on the song by how well you hit the pitch and hold the notes, with a numeric and up-to-five-stars score.

Unlike ‘Singstar’ for the PlayStation 2 and 3 – which I still think holds the award as the best series of karaoke games – the interface doesn’t show where you are hitting compared to the actual note but instead colours the notes as green or blue if you do great or OK, or orange or red if you do badly or, you know, worse, which doesn’t make it quite as easy to balance your pitch, which is a shame. However, I believe from testing it that the game is good at picking up your pitch, but it’s never easy to tell.

Song-wise there is a good selection to sing along to with a mixture of female and male vocals, with several rap tracks for those who, like me, enjoy a bit of rapping in lieu of actual singing. However, don’t expect your gran to be excited about playing this game or even your parents as, unlike other offerings that at least do a friendly nod in the direction of older tracks of established classics, this is firmly set in 2010 and 2011 with the only track on the collection not from those years being… nope, none of them.

If you do play this element of the game in solo mode prepare to try and foster a split personality as the swapping between vocalists can be a challenge, for instance from the female to male vocals on Eliza Doolittle’s ‘Pack Up’ or singing to rapping on Tinie Tempah track ‘Written In The Stars’. I’m not the world’s greatest vocalist but am pretty competent at karaoke games, but this was a struggle. Thankfully in duet it does split up the vocalists between the two singers, even if it doesn’t tell you what the split is before you start playing which is a little irritating.

Score-wise your achievements are saved as stars under the artist title.

Onto the second half of the disc and to ‘Dance’. Split four ways into Solo, Party, Hip-Hop and Warm-Up, this is the element I was less confident in, having limited experience in dancing games, but there is video footage of me doing it. On Facebook. Twice. Sadly.

Solo is naturally the one-player mode and Warm-Up gives you a simple dance routine to get you already to go. Party goes the whole hog with an up to four player dance-off (move the sofa, make some room) and Hip-Hop, between its efforts to sound cool with its One vs One and, erm, Crew mode, is the battle and co-op modes for dance, split into five groupings of custom-made tunes, to dance to.

For those of you that have played Just Dance it’s very much in the mould of how that works. If you haven’t had experiences of such, usually drink-fuelled nights if you’re an adult, you have to match your actions with an avatar on the screen which acts as your mirror image, with little images of upcoming dance moves scrolling across the screen to prepare you for your next move. You also have a star rating up the side, a number score and bubbles telling you how good your moves were from hot to nice, good to OK.

In my experience of dancing games, and this is no exception, I find it difficult to match up my moves with what’s happening on screen so I end up doing moves that are a cross between an electric shock and a breakdown. However, if you are more co-ordinated than me then you’ll enjoy the selection of dances, which fit nicely into the songs and range in difficulty. I first tried Club Can’t Handle Me and cried, but settling for the more sedate ‘Pack Up’ made me feel much better in myself!

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if the Wii remote really can pick up the dance moves you’re doing or just guesses. Let’s just say the game was saying I was hot but only, in my opinion, if the definition of ‘hot’ is looking like an idiot with a remote in his hand swaying side to side like a drunken fool.

Once you’ve mastered these two categories you can enter the Career mode. Set up your name and you can enter Sing and Dance on this new sub-menu, which is exactly the same set up as the individual tracks, except you have to work your way through groupings of songs, unlocking new groups as you complete levels. On level one of Sing, for instance, you get Cooler Than Me, All Time Low and Pack Up. If this is the easiest mode, God help me, as it took me many attempts to get the necessary three stars on Pack Up to progress, no matter how much I tried to impersonate Eliza Doolittle, mainly failing on switching between vocals and the tricky scat at the end. With no difficult options on the game it’s up to you to mangle your vocals enough to match whether you’re male or female, deep or high voiced. Now I have to see how well I can mimic Jessie J and two other tracks. Please accept my apologies, neighbours.

Unfortunately, there is no incentive to really play the Career mode as there are no extras to be unlocked by progressing, so it’s just for the bragging rights I’m afraid.

Dance works very similarly in Career mode except, of course, you’re dancing.

How much you get out of Dance and Sing is up to your tastes in games. If you really enjoy SingStar or Just Dance then the experiences here are very similar, more so to Just Dance as this is much stripped down compared to the PlayStation karaoke classic and not as friendly.

In fact, the game is very minimal. There are no difficulty levels to tweak, high scores, internet scoreboards, unlockable tracks, bonuses or digital downloads. There’s also very little to enjoy, nay nothing, if you don’t enjoy music that’s been made in the past eighteen months and, of course, you’ll get more out of the game if you invite your friends around for a go and make an evening of it with some drinks and perhaps some other party games.

It’s also debatable how well the detection of vocals and dancing goes. I’m an average singer and a terrible dancer but I somehow managed to do well on both disciplines.

If you want a fun game with a great mix of songs for most musical styles plus singers/rappers – providing those tastes are very modern – that does karaoke and dance for the price of just one of those then pick this up. There are better games on the market but it’s almost on a par with We Sing, the Wii’s other karaoke game, and the dance is so similar to Just Dance people probably won’t notice, so it’s a good compromise.

It’s certainly not two perfect elements happily meeting, but neither is it jack of all trades, master of none. It won’t sway those who want to play Call of Duty but will be good for fans of the genres with some extra songs to sing and dance away too. Just don’t expect anything more than a stripped back, basic package of tunes.

Now! That’s What I Call Middling.

Score: 7/10 – Good

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