Lips: Number One Hits tries to do something its predecessor ultimately failed to do: give gamers a genuine karaoke experience with plenty of great tracks to sing along to. While it still has some of the issues that plagued the original, Number One Hits is a step in the right direction for this XBOX 360 exclusive, a title that livens things up a bit and gives Sony’s equivalent Sing Star franchise a run for its money.
Lips isn’t your basic karaoke game. While the aim is very much to simply sing the words and keep up with the beat of the track, you’re rewarded more so on your pitch then your ability to sing out the words. Each player is represented by a colour on the screen, and as you sing along the pitch of your voice is represented by a coloured line, which in turn fills up the bars on the screen. The more intone you are with the song, the more points you get.
The gameplay works very well and Number One Hits at its core is a very good singing game. The inclusion of mini-games and the motion controls with the special Lips microphone give the experience a sense of originality not often seen in other games in the genre. The motion controls are implemented into the songs well for the most part, having you mimic the movements of your avatar on screen in breaks between verses. Sometimes your avatar will appear on screen and break out into an air guitar solo, and you can try to earn extra points by copying what it does on screen using the microphone.
While Number One Hits has been given a major overhaul in the menu and visual presentation department, the gameplay and mini-games available are essentially identical to those in the original. Most of those side games are quite gimmicky (sing in pitch to stop a bomb from exploding, for example) but are still quite fun and help distance the game from being just another generic singing game. You’re also given a code to download one of the first three track packs available to add some more tracks into the game, giving you the opportunity to add a bit more life to the title once you get through the songs available right from the beginning.
Surprisingly, Number One Hits offers a generally enjoyable single-player experience. While the game definitely shines when you’re playing with friends, there is a nice leveling up system when playing on your own, as well as great features that help you track your progress through the experience. As you move through a song and hit the right notes and pitch, your Star Stream juice meter fills up, which is Number One Hits’ equivalent to Star Power from the Guitar Hero games. Once the meter is full, you tilt the microphone to activate it, which fills each pitch bar with stars. As you fill each pitch bar, you collect the stars and get extra points. Furthermore, there is a great collection of tracks from solo artists, so you won’t find yourself always singing songs from big boy bands or the like when you’re playing by yourself.
While moving up through the ranks from Shower Dreamer to Singing Superstar offers you nothing more than personal satisfaction, it is good that a game like this has the incentive (albeit a small one) to push you through the single-player experience. There’s also leaderboards for every song, allowing you to send off your song score to your friends who can then challenge it.
One of the problems from the original Lips also plagues Number One Hits. The load times can be horrendous at times, making the experience feel slow and tedious. It takes close to a minute to simply move from the main menu into a “quick” song, which is pretty unforgiving considering the simplicity of the presentation.
The album menus have been improved to look a little less crowded, making it slightly easier to select what songs you want to sing to. However, the integration with Lips could have been improved. If you’ve played Lips, the game will recognize it and automatically include every track from that game in the album menu. Not only are the album covers from Lips a lot less detailed than the songs included in Number One Hits, but if you want to actually play one of those tracks, you have to swap to the Lips disc every time. Why not just include a Rock Band-like feature that allows you to just convert the original tracks over to the new game?
Still, these issues don’t really plague Number One Hits all that much. While Lips struggled to overshadow these problems, the sequel does a good job of covering them up with an improved layout and a better over track listing.