Rock Band has become the mother of all music games, but pop-friendly karaoke diversions like Singstar '90s have their uses. The big problem with Rock Band's near-impeccable taste in tuneage is that it leaves those with more mainstream sensibilities feeling left out. Sure, music geeks adore deep tracks like The Clash's "Complete Control," but not everybody has a passion for punk that takes them that far into the band's catalog. That's where Singstar '90s comes in. It's a party game that aims for recognition over indie cred.
Those with musical chips on their shoulders will likely cringe when they hear the shameless playlist. One-hit-wonders like Len play next to serial cheese-meisters Hootie & The Blowfish. Multi-platinum rap tracks "U Can't Touch This" and "Ice Ice Baby" provide opportunities for wannabe rappers to stumble over even the most simplistic flow. With two mics, nearly any track can be sung as a duet, making Paula Abdul's chirpy "Opposites Attract" a surprising highlight. And in the context of karaoke, Stone Temple Pilots' "Plush" feels more fun than most of Pearl Jam's superior but dreary hits. The original music videos that spool onscreen make for great conversation pieces, especially among those who find endless amusement in out-of-date hairstyles and clothing fads. Nirvana's "Lithium" and Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" are the few nods to the Rock Band diehards standing in the back of the room with their arms folded. They'll get their turn.
Beyond the game: Strangely enough, Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol might be a better choice for those with discerning tastes, especially on next-gen consoles, where tons of Motown tracks are available for download.
Worth playing for: Failure really brings down the mood. Bad singers don't bomb out of songs in Singstar '90s, they just finish with low scores. A straight-up karaoke setting does away with points and pitch-meters altogether.
Frustration sets in when: Medleys string bits of songs together, but not very well. In an era of mash-ups and cut-and-paste artists like Girl Talk, we expect our master mixes better brewed.
Final judgment: The ideal opening act for an all-night music-game party.