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Game Review

The Karaoke Revolution games have been offering closet warblers and American Idol fans lots of sing-with-the-bouncing-lyric fun for some time now. So it only makes sense, I guess, that the Konami gamemaking brain trust would want to expand the franchise's musical borders to include  Glee fans (or Gleeks as they affectionately call themselves).

To review the result, I need to start out with a quick overview of the Fox TV show: It's a sometimes (often) over-the-top, sometimes (often) controversial musical comedy that homes in on a gaggle of talented high schoolers who hope to someday perfect their sound and win the Glee Club Nationals. Each week welcomes another set of musical performances and another hot-button social issue (recreational drugs, teen pregnancy, racial struggles, gay angst, etc.).

It's a shtick that's become both popular and critically acclaimed. And in the face of a waning music industry, Glee tunes have already driven the sales of one Platinum and two Gold albums—along with 16 million song downloads. Glee cast recordings have now beat out The Beatles for most titles on the Billboard Hot 100 list by a non-solo act.

Pitchy Fun
Karaoke Revolution Glee capitalizes on that cultural excitement by proffering 30 of the abovementioned big sellers (from the first season of Glee). And it combines the tunes with video clip montages of the show's actors singing the songs in solo, duet and glee choir form. Gamers pick up the mic and, voilà, they're suddenly singing along with their favorite McKinley High crooners. Sort of.

The mechanics of the game are as easy as … well, to put it in the Gleek vernacular, as easy as getting hit with a blue slushy. No avatars or game stories to worry about. Just plug in a USB microphone, click on the Scrapbook section and find a song that you want to sing. Like other singing or rhythm titles out there, lyrics and rhythm indicators scroll across the screen and an arrow helps point out if you're above or below pitch. (The voice recognition program that guides you is somehow both accurate and forgiving at the same time.) You're given points for accuracy and offered new rewards for cleaner performances the next time through.

Song sets are divided up among the show's characters and include a wide range of old and new. Big man on campus Finn's set, for instance, features tunes such as REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." Rachel and Kurt both belt out "Defying Gravity" from the Broadway show Wicked. Other Glee covers range from classics such as "Proud Mary" and "Sweet Caroline" to cast arrangements of modern numbers such as "Gold Digger" and "Push It."

Grinding Gleeks
As you might expect, it's the more modern numbers that tend to be edgier both visually and lyrically, earning the game its E10+ rating. Songs include the words "p‑‑‑ed" and "h‑‑‑." Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It" encourages singers to "get up on this" and is accompanied by sexualized dance moves that include hip thrusts, backside slaps, grinding and a heated kiss.

Kanye West's "Gold Digger" and Young MC's "Bust a Move" introduce the world of rap to the high school mix. Still, after noticing that the more suggestive lyrics in these tracks were edited out (but not entirely because of that), I can say that the song choices and visual montages stay cleaner here than in many sing-along games of this type.

So that means the big downsides of Karaoke Revolution Glee revolve around its title, not its tracks. I'll explain: Because of its Glee-centricity, you have to spend a fair amount of time indulging in a quite questionable TV show to really rock. If you're not a Gleek, you won't know specific arrangements and vocal licks that were applied to each song during the course of the show.

Even though there are a bunch of tunes in the music sets that everyone will recognize, the game pretty much demands that you study the source material. You may know "Don't Stand So Close to Me" and "Young Girl," but if you've never heard the Glee mash-up, you're going to spend your first five times through with the mic dangling uselessly by your leg.

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November 9, 2010

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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