Ah, the eighties: a time of dodgy haircuts, peculiar outfits and synthesizers dominating the airwaves. In truth, the Nintendo Life office is still a bit like that, but never mind. What we have here with We Sing 80s is a singing game dedicated to that decade, making oldies or retro-minded youngsters all the more comfortable as they screech and howl their way through 30 classic songs. Well, it is party season.
Of course, those who love a bit of karaoke on Wii probably already know about the We Sing series, and may have already been donning the ankle warmers and squeaking through I Should Be So Lucky for a number of weeks now. The first thing most should probably do when firing this up for the first time is head into Lessons — we sure needed them — but they can be a tad confusing; you're prompted to go through do-re-me's, but not really given a starting note. We found ourselves fumbling around our woefully limited range to hit the desired note, and from there followed various exercises. For those with the right attitude the lessons are fine, but they do little to encourage hopeless voice artists, so could have been made more interesting and understandable.
Still, nobody said karaoke was about singing well, as a visit to a local karaoke bar often highlights. In that respect, We Sing 80s throws the kitchen sink at the genre, including a number of modes to test your vocal chords and infuriate your neighbours. In Solo mode you can choose individual songs to sing through as normal, or test yourself with Blind mode, where the music and lyrics occasionally drop while you continue, and Expert mode, which provides no pitch bars or lyrics. The options when choosing songs are also nice and robust, as you can set up your own playlists, choose a difficulty, and also decide whether you want the original track vocals on or off. Unlike We Sing Pop, we thankfully didn't notice any major sound distortion issues when playing with vocals off. We don't recommend the half song option, however, because they often cut off at peculiar moments, meaning that this remains a rather strange inclusion.
Playing solo isn't really the way to go, however, especially as there's no career mode or means of progression. There are achievements to chase, but we imagine it would be fun to have a story to work through where you rise to the top of the 80s pop scene. Without any such mode it's really just a case of picking songs and singing, which isn't a great activity when sitting in a room on your own. No, this is really all about gathering some friends and family for a singing party.
The developer clearly thinks so, as it's thrown a number of modes at the multiplayer segment including Group Battle, First to X and Pass the Mic, the final option ideal for those with only one microphone peripheral — up to four are supported. Some combine scores for happy team play, while others pitch everyone against each other in a grisly off-key sing-off; to be honest, those playing are unlikely to care, happy just to sing some tunes, but competitive gamers will like exploring the options. It's simple but it works, particularly in songs where there are multiple parts to sing, allowing those with questionable voices to pretend, for a short time, that they're really a member of The Bangles, singing angelic supporting notes.
That's all good, but it's nothing we haven't see before in the series — practically the same, actually — so it's really all down to the soundtrack. Thankfully, the 30 songs on offer are rather good, with a broad range to suit many moods and music sensibilities. We found it a little surreal to go from The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood to Pass the Dutchie by Musical Youth, but that's definitely part of the fun. In fact, our rose-tinted glasses didn't really see any duds in this collection, but we did realise one thing — 80s songs are very hard to sing. Maybe it's due to our questionable talents, but these artists had some crazy vocal ranges that caused our aching chords to howl in protest: give Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, True Colours or Don't You Want Me a try, we dare you.
It's also nice that, of course, the music videos play along in the background as you summarily murder their tracks. You can watch them without any karaoke nonsense in the Jukebox mode, ideal for some reminiscing, and the picture and sound quality is passable. In truth, the videos are grainy and the sound appears to be a little below CD quality, but it seems strangely suitable for a game covering an era from three decades ago. We're unsure whether the slightly iffy quality is down to shortcomings in development or the source material — these videos weren't exactly shot in HD back in the day — but they can be a little disconcerting to some modern eyes and ears.
We Sing 80s is a decent continuation of the series, and is likely to cause nostalgia overload for gamers of a certain age. Its biggest strengths are multiplayer fun and an excellent tracklist that covers some of the most memorable songs of the period. It's weakest played solo, where it's really just a karaoke machine that's supported by a rather unsupportive Lessons mode, while the video and sound quality is rather typical of a Wii singing game — passable but unimpressive. Nordic Games is a veteran of the genre, however, and has brought its solid experience to this title; as party season approaches, this could be a fun option.