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Review: Virtual 'American Idol' hits right notes

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
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Aspiring singers tired of watching others soak up the spotlight on the wildly popular "American Idol" television show can now have their 15 minutes of fame (and longer) with "Konami's Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol" for the Sony PlayStation 2.

With the aid of a supported USB microphone/headset (purchased separately or bundled with the game for $20 more), you can play as a contestant who must sing along with more than 40 pop and R&B hits from the past four decades, such as "Can't Help Falling in Love," "Do I Make You Proud?" "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Piano Man" and "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

You can create your own contestant by tweaking a male or female singer's looks, or go with one of the pre-made characters such as the scruffy blond Jake, who resembles the late Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, or the diva Vanessa.

As you work your way to become the next American Idol, you must sing along with the on-screen lyrics, while the game's voice-recognition technology will determine if you're singing in the proper key.

Rhythm is also measured, so fast lyrics such as those found in "She Bangs" may be quite difficult to keep up with for some.

But it wouldn't be an "American Idol" game if you weren't evaluated on your performances.

The judges, including the outspoken Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, will make positive, negative or neutral comments about your pitch, consistency and song difficulty.

For example, if you butcher Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," Jackson will say, "Yo dog, I love that song. I wish I could say you did a good job, but, well, I can't."

Cowell adds: "Um, this is the point in the show where people at home turn down the volume."

If you sing well, expect to hear praise, such as "Great song choice -- you looked great" or "I kind of felt tingly all over -- really great."

Cowell may reluctantly concur with the other judges: "Yes, I think there's an element of truth there -- you did well in the middle of the song -- but I don't know if I'll remember you two hours from now."

A tip to impress the judges and crowd (who also clap or boo your performance): If the song is out of your vocal range, you can sing an octave higher or lower.

Speaking of judges, Paula Abdul is curiously missing. Similarly, you will hear host Ryan Seacrest but will not see him.

The game faithfully re-creates a virtual season, so you first audition in front of the judges. If Cowell and company like what they hear, you're flown to Hollywood to compete through the semifinals and then the finals.

For added authenticity, this video game features the same graphics and music as the TV show.

You can tackle the game solo or play against up to seven other contestants (who can each create and name his or her own character) and then take turns belting out the songs for the judges.

Other than the main competition mode, players also can choose to play a Quick Play game, One Mic Party, Two Mic Party and straight Karaoke mode (no score keeping).

Wannabe rock stars will love playing this family-friendly game -- but only if you're willing to risk Cowell's snooty put-downs.

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Sing along with more than 40 pop and R&B hits in "Konami's Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol."

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