DSiWare has seen some glorious titles since its launch, but for wannabe pop stars, there's been something missing. Stepping forward is DTP Entertainment, filling the void in the DSiWare catalogue with Just Sing! 80’s Collection. Time to get busy with the hairspray, dig out those old shoulder pads and return to the golden age of synth music.
This is the fourth entry in the Just Sing! series on DSiWare, and it's probably the boldest. We’re not just singing Christmas tunes or some arbitrarily selected national anthems; oh no, we’re now dealing with a whole decade of popular culture in music. Except there are just four songs available to sing: Like a Virgin by Madonna, The Heat is On by Glenn Frey, Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley and Take On Me by a-ha, a song with a high note that can only be heard by dogs and other small animals. There is certainly variety in the list, though at the asking price for the game you’re paying over £1 per song.
Surprisingly, though, the quality of the recordings is relatively high. Sure, the instrumentals are clearly all played on a keyboard but heck, so were the original tracks. Unlike predecessors in this series, vocals are included; the singers have done a reasonable job overall, though our sympathies go out to the gentleman covering Take On Me. As we’ve suggested, this is a tough song to perform, and despite a gallant effort the singer can’t quite match the original vocalist.
What this does mean is that the karaoke experience is reasonably good. If there is any lack of familiarity with the track, the presence of a vocal immediately helps you on your way. Like previous Just Sing! iterations and the genre as a whole, your task is to simply sing along with the music, aiming to hit the right pitch at the right time. Picking a song and aiming for a good score is all that is on offer; there are no other modes or mini-games. Scores are added to a local leaderboard, with no online feature to add a competitive edge. You can also choose and customise an avatar to dance on stage during a performance, but that doesn’t add much to the gameplay or replay value.
The software does a decent job in picking up your voice accurately. We tried to trick the game by whistling and blowing into the microphone, but came out with significantly lower scores. Thankfully, especially for the tone-deaf team at Nintendo Life, you are generously excused for singing slightly out of key. However, the game does reward good timing and an effort to match the pitch of the notes. Picking up high scores is relatively easy, so the replay value in this game depends on how much you like the songs on offer.
Visually, this title is mediocre. When performing a song the action takes place on a large stage with your avatar providing some dance moves for the crowd. There’s a nice and somewhat charming touch with screens in the wings occasionally using the DSi camera to show your face as you sing. On the downside, the dancing of the avatar is not particularly smooth or natural, with only a few different moves used regardless of the song. Amusingly, the beat of Take On Me baffles the dancer so much that for long spells she stands still, simply staring into the audience. It’s not particularly polished, but considering past entries in the series this isn’t surprising.
Just Sing! 80s Collection is a modest title, with just one mode of play and four songs to sing. At 500 Points, it arguably should have included another couple of tracks to add a bit more play time. It is reasonably charming, features decent cover versions of the songs and utilises the DSi microphone and camera well. Even so, this title is only really recommended for karaoke and 80s music enthusiasts, and even these gamers may finish before the party even starts.