- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

A trio of music-based games for Sony’s home entertainment console will give families evenings of entertainment as they croon, boogie to and produce a variety of tunes.

Especially daring members of the clan can exercise their vocal cords with the follow-up to last year’s smash singing title, Karaoke Revolution: Volume 2 (by Konami for PlayStation 2, rated E: content suitable for ages 6 and older, $39.99).

Using the same proprietary voice-analyzing technology to judge players on pitch and rhythm, the challenge features 35 new dance, pop, R&B;, country and rock songs, as well as a few new play modes that truly deliver an interactive experience.

Up to eight players eventually can select from a dozen avatars, including a Vegas-era Elvis type and a goth guy, to offer on-screen mimicry of their performance. Players must sing along with an on-screen prompter as they wow or disappoint an audience in such locales as a subway station, television show and concert arena.

The ultimate goals of the game are just having fun with friends or working up the industry ladder in the Showtime mode by garnering high point totals through excellent vocal performances, earning character upgrades.

Singers must have either a PS2-compatible headset (one came packaged with the original Revolution game), which is perfect for the bouncy Christina Aguilera song “Genie in a Bottle,” or they can go out and purchase a hand-held microphone (try Logitech’s USB Mic for $19.99) that will add a bit of realism to the daring male looking to imitate Gene Simmons during Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite” or Frank Sinatra as he belts out “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

The challenge is perfect for a party or even for the musician who is learning to extend his vocal abilities. The sequel easily tops the original, thanks to a selection of songs including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Born to Be Wild” and “I Hate Everything About You” that will appeal to most ages.

Next, exercising the body comes into play through another sequel to a popular title. The incredibly clever set of challenges found in EyeToy Groove (by Sony for PlayStation 2, rated E: content suitable for ages 6 and older, $29.99) requires the use of Sony’s PS2 EyeToy camera peripheral ($49.99) to turn any mild-mannered game player’s upper appendages into a boogie machine.

Players simply hook up the miniature video camera and align themselves within the game’s frame. Then they must use their hands to follow the bouncing icons in rhythm to abbreviated versions of 28 dance songs such as “YMCA,” “We Are Family” and Madonna’s “Music.”

The camera works best on dancers bathed in front light, and it even can take a photo still and a five-second video of the action that can be saved on a PS2 memory card.

Besides the multiple groove modes, paunchy dancers will enjoy an aerobics option to sweat off a few pounds as they enter their weight and burn off about 10 calories per pop tune.

Additionally, its Chill Out Room works great for parties as several partygoers can dance along to one or a string of songs while watching themselves on television as visuals are manipulated by various colorful and kaleidoscopic effects.

Finally, the hip CD mogul in the family will be salivating over the mixing possibilities found in the MTV Music Generator 3 (by Codemasters for PlayStation 2, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $29.99).

Producers can create, sample and remix until their ears bleed using the 10 included songs from the likes of OutKast, Snoop Dogg and the Ones, or ripping eight-second pieces from a personal CD collection.

Through a 24-track virtual studio mixer, future Brian Enos can put together a four-minute swing session by cutting together drum, bass, guitar riffs and vocal snippets and throwing in some hefty effects to get the perfect sound.

A welcome tutorial takes about 10 minutes to whip through before the easy-to-use software allows the song production to begin.

Once again, the title works within the party atmosphere, as engineers can play their saved masterpieces for friends as a colorful accompaniment is displayed on a television monitor.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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