Console Gaming for Families

Singstar Dance

Games and console manufacturers are doing everything they can to convince us that gaming is now a family affair, whether you’re eight or eighty.

With Christmas just around the corner, we took a look at some of the favourites that are sure to draw everyone in front of the television.

Singstar Dance

Developed exclusively for the Playstation 3, this title looks to build on the overwhelming success of the Singstar series by introducing the Move controller into the mix and allowing users to add dance to their vocal performances.

The idea – for those who are new to both Singstar and dancing games – is to simply mimic the onscreen dancer to gain points. This is done alongside the singing so if you want to put on a bit of a double act – one singing and one dancing – it is entirely possible. If you are feeling very dextrous then you could attempt to sing and dance yourself – that means a mike in one hand and the move controller in the other, but I wouldn’t advise it.

Of course things are not quite what they seem and although you are following the dancers instructions, in truth the game is really only registering the movements of whichever arm is holding the Move controller. However, that said, the system does an excellent job of detecting motion and is far better than the Wii remote in this regard.

I played this with a 13 year old (who completely trashed my best efforts) and we had a great deal of fun.

There’s an excellent choice of songs to choose from, with more promised from Sony via the online store and the fact that you can record your efforts and play them back to everyone else’s amusement is a big plus.

If you have a Move and critically, have the space, you won’t go far wrong with Singstar Dance. It’s a great addition to the canon of Singstar products and has the potential to really get the party started this Christmas.

Dance Central

Dance Central is one of the Kinect launch titles and of all those that came out on the first day, it stands head and shoulders as probably the best of the bunch.

As the name suggests, this is a dancing title and it uses the advanced capabilities of Microsoft’s Kinect to great effect.

Either alone or against an opponent, you just need to clear a wide space (this is Kinect remember and the minimum amount of room from the screen has to be 6 feet, with 8 feet the preferred option for two players) and then get your dancing shoes on.

The good news is that this is a very responsive program and really shows off the tracking ability of Kinect.

It brought a lot of interest from the younger children, specifically the girls in our party and had them coming back for more.

If I had one criticism – and this might just be me showing my age – it was the choice of music tracks, which leaned towards hip hop a little too much. A more generous sprinkling of pop would have been greatly appreciated by the older members of the family.

If these titles are meant to bring generations together then they have to appeal to all generations in the first place.

Overall, though, another excellent title.

Rock Band 3

Fancy yourself as a rock star? If so, Rock Band 3 is certainly the title for you.

First up its worth noting that the game itself has come in for a lot of stick from critics because of the cost of the additional instruments you need to purchase to make the experience worthwhile. If you think you can satisfy yourself or the demands of the game just by whipping out your Wii or Xbox controller then think again.

This is a title for enthusiasts but promises to be more rewarding than perhaps any of the other titles featured here.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, basically you and your gaming buddies are part of a band. Just like a real outfit, one of you sings, one of you plays guitar, another plays a drummer. If you manage to knock out a decent tune between you, the game rewards your performance. The more “together” you sound, the more points you gain.

The idea is to make it down the road to Rock stardom.

There are 83 mostly classic songs to test yourself against and if you can stretch to getting the guitar, keyboard, drums and microphone then you really are going to get a lot out of the product.

Certainly the best music program by miles, it comes at a price but has the legs to justify it.

TV Superstars

TV Superstars is another title developed exclusively for Playstation Move and is for up to 4 gamers, either playing individually or as a team as they get to participate in a series of over-the-top renditions of popular television game and reality show genres.

Split into 4 areas – Frockstar, Let’s Get Physical, Big Beat Kitchen and DIY Raw – these fictitious creations are meant to mirror TV favourites such as Gladiators and Hell’s Kitchen, something they manage to do with varying degrees of success.

My favourite of the disciplines were the tasks found under Big Beat Kitchen, where players are tasked with cooking up different dishes as part of a series of mini-games. These can be tricky and challenging, which I guess is the point and as such can be considered a success.

Let’s Get Physical offers players the opportunity to test themselves in a more simplistic fashion whilst Frockstar is essentially applying makeup and dressing your onscreen characters.

Finally, DIY Raw forces gamers to paint walls, cut wood and place furniture as part of an attempt to move a fictional family into their new home.

Whichever game you decide to play, the biggest emphasis is placed upon your character and using the Playstation Eye you are able to inject a personal touch by adding your photo to the contestant you use. It is a cool idea and one that proved popular with the youngsters who were participating in this test with me.

Whilst it might not be as involving as some of the other titles featured here, for a quick dip into something that is just pure fun, you can’t go far wrong with TV Superstars. Just don’t expect them to still be playing it six months from now – unless Sony offers up additional content to reignite the interest.

Kinect Sports

If you want the chance to play football in your living room without braving the winter weather or fancy a game of table tennis without having to head off to your local sports centre then Kinect Sports might be the answer for you.

It has the feel of Wii Sports (itself a launch title) and has no hang ups about replicating the whole look and feel of that series.  Why would you change a winning formula?

Featuring a number of different sports, including a hit-and-miss track and field event that was of particular interest to the under 9s, Kinect Sports was another of the Kinect launch titles and as such, offers gamers a mixed bag.

Football is entertaining but lacking in depth, whilst table tennis feels like it has something missing from the overall dynamic.

Bowling on the other hand, proved to be quite a crowd favourite and even though you lose the sensation of actually holding a ball, it is nevertheless quite pleasing to draw back your throwing arm as you hit another perfect strike.

Boxing is too confusing to be of any value and is less successful whilst Volleyball needs a lot of space – something that could be said of all the titles here.

I am still debating whether an actual table tennis table required less space to play in than the Kinect equivalent.

However, once again, there is enough variety here for this to be a hit and it certainly sells the potential of Kinect very well.

George R Vaughan

 

We have copies of Rock Band 3 (game title only) up for grabs across all formats. To win, subscribe with Women Talking and then email us at competitions@womentalking.co.uk putting Rock Band 3 in the subject header and giving us your username, format of choice and the answer to the following question:

How many song titles does the PS3 and Xbox versions of Rock Band 3 come pre-loaded with?

Please note this competition has now closed.