While games like Sing Star and Rock Band seem to get most of the attention, Disney’s Sing It franchise has flown under the radar for any number of reasons. Chief among them, it has always targeted children with a heavy lean toward girls. However, the latest installment, Disney Sing It: Family Hits
for the Wii might be the best of all the Disney Sing It titles, as it takes a unique approach of bringing players of all ages into one game with songs from Disney titles from both old and new.
The concept behind Sing It: Family Hits is to take songs from classic Disney animated movies and present them in the Sing It structure overtop a clip from each film. In the past, the Sing It games have usually chosen a music video or performance from the artist (think Miley Cyrus, Camp Rock group, Jesse McCartney, etc) to put behind the song on screen. The great thing about using the movie clips is that Instead of pigeon holing the player to a tween girl or a child, now parents, kids and their friends can all appreciate the music and the source movie. I mean, who hasn’t seen most of the Disney films out there at least once in their lifetime?
To me, this is probably the coolest aspect of the game is that the songs are laid over a montage of scenes from the original film that they came from. Some of the master footage is almost 60 years old (Peter Pan) while others are more recent (2009’s Princess and the Frog), so it is an interesting mix of film quality behind the games graphics. Regardless of when the original film was created, it all looks real good. The only bit that is a bit odd is that not all of the music is set to the same part of the film from which it was originally heard. Some of the music may be from the ending credits, or heard for a very small time on-screen, so the developers had to find a section of the film that matches form both a time and mood perspective.
The game play itself follows the basic Sing It pattern, and closely matches the features of Disney Sing It: Party Hits. A few of the changes include a small difference in the Pro Mode and some of the themes. Otherwise, the basic game structure remains intact, with the music and movie animations the signature portion of the game. My biggest complaint with Disney Sing It: Family Hits (and all of the Sing It games) is the way the lyrics are displayed on the screen. The old school karaoke style really doesn’t get it done after the way the Rock Band series has raised the bar so high. With the Sing It family of games, it is very difficult to read the upcoming lyrics while singing the current lyrics because of the stacked presentation (current lyrics immediately over the upcoming lyrics). Other music games tend to provide at least two sections of lyrics in a long string in order for your eyes to naturally flow ahead. With the stacked display, I found myself missing the words or getting distracted from my signing trying to read the next words from the second line, which really messes with your timing, especially when there is a pause between lyrics. This doesn’t necessarily detract from the game, but for anyone that plays across multiple games that feature lyrics, at some point it would be helpful to have a sort of loose standardization in the presentation, preferably following the market leader.
Despite my struggles to smoothly transition into the upcoming lyrics, the one thing that Sing It: Family Hits doesn’t suffer from are songs that are unfamiliar to the player. While there are a couple of them that weren’t featured prominently in their respective films, I recall hearing them at some point, but I did have to spend a little more time with them in the game in order to learn the lyrics and flow. As for the rest of the songs, most of them are extremely familiar, including the likes of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King, “A Whole New World” from Aladdin and “Real Gone” from Cars. One other note on the songs is that you do have to sing over the top of the original version, which is a fixed level. So you cannot adjust the songs volume down to make your voice more prominent. You can play with the Mic volume, but that can cause issues with how it translates into the game and through your audio system.
I mentioned a few of the songs that are in the game, but there are a couple of issues that will eventually pop up regarding the content. The game ships with a mere 30 songs and there isn’t any sort of DLC store. The problem is that the “family hits” may get old pretty quick with such a small selection of songs. This is especially true for the little ones that may not have been exposed to the music of some of the classics or those transition films (like Aladdin) that are more geared toward their parents. While I understand that Disney has already committed to putting out a dedicated new version of the game each year, at some point, they will need to conceded that DLC is here to stay and that players would prefer to see a more refined game with continual improvements with the ability to add the songs we want at our discretion, rather than being forced to pay for ones that we don’t have interest in singing.Like other titles in the Sing It family, there is some vocal training available from a Disney star. For Family Hits, Anika Noni Rose from The Princess and the Frog is your vocal coach is a nice add-in for the little ones (and some adults) that haven’t been exposed to the Sing It franchise and some of the older songs. My daughter was not only able to improve her signing after using the vocal trainer, but also had her confidence built up in order to sing louder and with more enthusiasm. As a player and a parent, I appreciate Disney including this feature, as it does help the little ones get better and remove some of the frustration involved with improving at a game.
In any karaoke or singing game, you have to have a microphone and like all the bundled Sing It titles, Disney Sing It: Family Hits comes included with a standard USB mic. It is almost identical to previous Sing It microphones, although it does appear that the inline capacitor has been reduced in size. One thing that hasn’t changed is the overall performance, which can be inconsistent, as it appears to be overly-sensitive at times while in other instances it barely picks up your voice. Positioning is the key to getting decent sound, which I was able to find after having the mic essentially touching my lower lip to get the maximum voice pick-up. I was finding that the any other position caused the inconsistencies I mentioned above with its performance. Despite the adequate performance of the included mic, it does work well at picking up your voice when you find your best position to hold it at.
Overall, I think Disney Sing It: Family Hits is a great game to bring different generations of friends and family to the microphone together. While there could have been a few less obscure songs (especially in lieu of no DLC being available) and the microphone could someday use an upgrade, the game is still very fun to play and the kids don’t really seem to care about anything other than having a good time. And frankly, that is what the game is about, bringing out the fun in kids of all ages. In this regard, Disney Sing It: Family Hits succeeds, but could use just a bit more polish around the edges.