It’s become an annual thing: the end of year rolls around, and we get the double-header of Just Dance and Let’s Sing. While the former flamboyantly dresses in a panda suit and bags up the cash, the latter brings a small package of songs, a slightly more refined set of game modes, and quietly gets on with it. This year is no different: Let’s Sing 2021 is baby steps on from Let’s Sing Queen, which was a baby step on from Let’s Sing 2020.
There’s been a rejig of Legend Mode – effectively the solo campaign of Let’s Sing. It gives some much-needed feelings of progression, as you complete four varying challenges against a boss and unlock avatars, clothes and other knick-knacks. It’s not earth-shattering: it’s mostly stuff that’s pilfered from the other game modes, and it would have benefitted from more variation. But it’s something you’re bound to chip away at, and it feels more rewarding than before.
Then there’s a new minigame, rolled up into the Let’s Party mode, bringing it up to seven minigames in total. It’s called Pop Chicken, and it’s a bewildering Mario Kart of an experience: do well and you’ll open chests that chuck various hindrances at your opponent. It’ll take a go or two to understand what all the wiggling eggs and debuffs mean, but like most of the minigames in Let’s Sing 2021, if you sing well, you win. It’s all fancy dressing really.
In terms of other additions, there’s some ‘constructive’ feedback when you finish a song. We don’t have a huge amount of singing talent in the house, so the 2- and 3-star scores were often met with different ways of saying ‘do better’. Scumbags. It wasn’t the most useful, but we suspect it’s more meaningful for players who are approaching perfection.
That’s it in terms of updates. If you’ve played a Let’s Sing from the past few years then you’ll be immediately at home. Classic Mode lets you pick your choice of song; Feat is an opportunity to duet with a partner; World Contest is a one-on-one points battle with another player around the globe; Mix Tape 2.0 duct-tapes together songs that have some connection; Jukebox offers playlists, and Let’s Party is the team-vs-team battle mode. For anyone new to the series, it’s a daunting list, but you’ll soon find your home. We went for the simple charms of Classic Mode, which allowed four players to make their choice of song.
For a lot of people, the songs are the kicker. As with previous years, there are 30 here, which has always felt a wee bit spartan versus Just Dance’s 40 songs, or the dizzy numbers that Rock Band would offer. Hell, even Harmonix’s FUSER has 100 available at launch. If there’s a pattern in the songs that have been chosen, most are from the past few years and feature warbling, emotional men like James Bay and Lewis Capaldi, but there’s still a decent amount of variety around the fringes.
Some songs are crackers to sing, too: who doesn’t want to belt out ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’ from the Lion King? Panic at the Disco’s ‘High Hopes’ makes for a great singalong anthem, and Dua Lipa’s ‘Don’t Start Now’ gets you strutting. Some songs don’t quite work in a Let’s Sing setting, such as Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’ – it’s a fine song but too mumbly to work as a sing-a-long. All in all, it’s a decent track listing, and it can be bolstered by buying £3.99 song packs from the store, or by buying the Platinum Edition which has them all packed in. There’s an emphasis on oldies in those packs, if you’re feeling left behind by the core track listing.
There are some refinements we’d like for 2022’s edition of Let’s Sing. Particularly on the mic, the game can take a little time before it registers your singing. This tended to be true when the song opened on the lower register, like the ba-da-bas of Seal’s ‘Kiss From a Rose’. If you’re chasing scores, it can be frustrating. It’s also a bizarrely slow game, for a couple of reasons. Load times are sluggish, and we hoped things would have improved on Xbox Series X, but alas, no. It’s compounded by all the screens that follow a song, as you’re shown a score, then your level increases, then you’re given your unlocks. It’s nice to be showered with stuff, but sometimes we wished it was all in one gift package. We just wanted to get our Marshmello on.
Let’s Sing still hasn’t quite found it’s personality either. The chunky avatars aren’t quite enough, and everything has a glossy but empty feel that can’t hold a candle to the titans of music games. We’d love a Rock Band Network approach to the store that would mean a carry-over of songs and a much greater library to pick from. And the incremental improvements are slight – even less than we’ve come to expect from certain sports games.
But at its heart, Let’s Sing does the important things right. It works well, it serves up a varied dish of popular songs, it does everything it can to get the room singing, and it has a low barrier to entry as anyone can use a smartphone. There are umpteen modes, giving you plenty of ways to play.
Let’s Sing 2021 on the Xbox One and Series X|S is a cover version of last year’s release, and it hits slightly higher notes. In all other respects it’s the same song, so it’s appeal to you will largely be down to the track listing. As with other years, the production is strong and slick, and with eight players and smartphones all welcomed, it’s one of the most inclusive music games out there.