Preview: Lips for the Xbox 360

Microsoft is answering to Sony's Singstar with Lips, which adds to the tone-infused genre by including fancy, flashing, wireless microphones and the ability to use your own tunes.

Lips is the upcoming karaoke title from iNis, the creators of Gitaroo Man for the PS2 and Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan for the Nintendo DS. In Lips, players can sing along to their favorite tunes using wireless, motion-sensitive microphones. Players are scored on their words, rhythm, pitch and in some cases, movement. Expect to see Lips in store shelves this holiday season.

Lips is Microsoft's attempt to re-create the success of Sony's Singstar, a karaoke game for the PS2 and PS3 that has taken Europe by storm. But Lips is upping the ante with wireless microphones, drop in co-op play and the ability to bring in your own music.

I always knew I was a star

One of the big features of Lips are the wireless microphones. Two of them are included in the bundle, one black and one white. Not only are they wireless, but around the bottom portion of the handle a series of small LED lights have been added, which pulse and change colors along with the music and your voice. While this doesn't have any real bearing on the gameplay, it does add some flair to the performance experience. Scoring is based on rhythm and phonemes, so, while you can play by not singing the correct words, keeping on tune will net you a much higher score. The mics also include a motion sensing feature that allows you to go into a star mode (much like Guitar Hero's Star Power), which grants you bonus points when you sing the correct notes.

An even more pleasurable experience can be added by incorporating other players. Up to six people can participate in the performance, two on microphones and the other four on the regular Xbox controllers. The four non-singing participants can play along with the rhythm by hitting the four main controller buttons. Each button will result in a different rhythm instrument being played such as hand claps and a tambourine. These instruments can be changed to suit your tastes and over fifty different kinds will be available.

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Come on, bring the noise!

Lips will feature a large selection of songs on the disc, but at the preview we sat in on only three were available: "Bust a Move" by Young MC, "Mercy" by Duffy and "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John. There is no word on how many songs will be available on the disc when the game releases but iNis promises a wide selection plus regularly updated downloadable content that can be accessed via an in game store.

Perhaps the most intriguing feature of Lips is the ability to bring in your own DRM free music. Nothing is more frustrating in a music game than not having any songs that you like. Imported songs will not have all the same features as in-game songs but it will provide an extra bit of excitement to the proceedings as you wail out that tune you usually only get to sing in the shower.

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Here we are now, entertain us

Multiple play modes are available, including solo, vs., co-op and duets that will allow you to play the game however you like. The vocals on the main tracks can be raised or lowered to your liking and you can even add effects to your voice to make it sound even better, just like the real stars! Additionally, the second player can drop in and out of the song at will without having to stop and start over again from the beginning. This is a terrific feature that many players will certainly appreciate.

With all these features, Lips looks to be a great first entry into the world of karaoke games for the 360. iNis promises many more features related to the motion sensitive mics, scoring and "bring your own tunes" feature, but they weren't prepared to talk about them in the demo we saw. However, they did say that a big announcement concerning the game would be coming soon. You can be sure that we'll be keeping our ears to the ground to bring you the latest updates as soon as we hear them.

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