Acting and singing have a lot in common: plenty of people believe they do them brilliantly, and the speed with which celebrities flit between both disciplines would have you believe they’re easy. As anyone who’s listened to a loved one murder a beloved song at karaoke will tell you, singing is best left to the professionals, yet games such as Lips and SingStar sell millions. Could a game based around acting do the same?
That’s the central question around Yoostar 2, dubbed a “movie karaoke” game by publishing group Yoostar. Like traditional karaoke games that ask you to warble through your favourite tunes, dishing out points accordingly, Yoostar puts you inside scenes from famous Hollywood films, gives you the dialogue and shouts “action”. It’s a remarkably simple concept with plenty of appeal, but some limitations prevent it grabbing the Best Picture Oscar.
The first place you’ll likely visit is the game’s Quick Play area, where you can dive into one of 80 clips from films as varied as Cheech & Chong, The Godfather and 300. It’s an unhelpful cliché to say there’s something for everyone, but there’s a broad range of genres and actors available, and in the game’s intended party setting there’s bound to be at least one scene each of your guests will attempt. More scenes will be made available through DLC from the built-in Yoostore, without the need to browse the PlayStation Store.
Getting started in a scene is simple. You can choose to follow a script or ad-lib, with scripted clips scored according to accurate delivery, appropriate body movements and more. In scenes where multiple roles are available, you select your target and an outline appears on screen. Whereas Yoostar 2 on Kinect is able to remove the background automatically, PlayStation Move users must take a snapshot of a blank background for the game to calculate what to remove and what to keep. Doing this once wouldn’t be a problem, but doing it before every scene quickly becomes a chore: in a party setting, where you’re trying to keep the energy going, needing to stay still and take a picture of an empty room is atmosphere kryptonite.
The other problem with using PlayStation Eye is there’s no sign of the digital zoom included in the Kinect version, so you’ll need to get up close and personal to the Eye for most scenes, certainly not ideal for some of the more physical scenes. As we’ve learnt from previous video capture games, the Eye also suffers in low lighting conditions, so be aware you’ll need to have a well-lit room to get the most out of the game. When the conditions are good, the background removal works well, so the effort pays off.
Once you’ve finishing chewing the scenery in your chosen scene, you can save the clip to watch later, but Yoostar’s most interesting features happen online. While there’s no multiplayer, the game’s online portal lets you upload your performances to be rated by other players: as more people watch your clips your overall fame rating increases, unlocking video backgrounds for you to create your own scenes from scratch. If you don’t want to share your videos with the entire Yoostar community, you can share them with just your friends via Facebook and Twitter integration, with a dedicated Facebook application to boot.
On the clips side, Yoostar 2 never quite breaks out to become a must-have. The range of scenes on the disc is commendable, but it’s so varied that half the disc will likely go unplayed: the same players who want to recreate Norbit are unlikely to appreciate Casablanca, for example. Downloadable content helps, but after shelling out for the disc, disappointment at leaving many of the scenes untouched is very likely.
Another hurdle to overcome is the nature of acting itself: we learn songs through singing along repeatedly, but only the most ardent movie-lovers will have seen their favourite films more than a few times, resulting in first performances spent staring at the screen reading lines and waiting for cues. It might be funny to watch afterwards, but it’ll take a few repeat performances to learn the timing and lines, and by that time many casual players will be put off.
While PlayStation Move isn’t actually used in the scenes themselves, it makes navigating between menus far easier: most options on-screen are assigned a button, so you can move through screens quickly and efficiently. Move is under-used – some augmented reality features would have been extremely impressive – but when used at least it’s a help, rather than a hindrance.
Yoostar 2 on PS3 is held back from excelling by technical limitations: stopping to snap a background before every scene and lack of digital zoom means you never feel as involved in the action as you need to be to enjoy yourself. Gamers with both Xbox 360 and PS3 would be better served with the superior Yoostar 2 on Kinect, which does a better job at background removal and has a digital zoom to boot. While its range of clips and sharing features will attract many, its rough edges are enough for us to advise caution to all but the most committed actors.