Let’s Sing Queen is cruel. It would be like releasing Let’s Swim: Barracuda or Let’s Run: Cheetah. Freddie Mercury wasn’t human – he could perform things that we mortals couldn’t hope to achieve. But here we have a Let’s Sing game dedicated to mimicking his vocal gymnastics, dressed up as if it’s a casual party game. Invite mates over and you will all be warbling like a pack of Scooby Doos.
I half-joke of course. Queen’s songs can be overblown, anthemic, a little bit panto, and – yes – really hard to sing, but, for a lot of people, that’s the point. It’s a great chance to headbang together like it’s Wayne’s World, singing Bohemian Rhapsody and trying to switch from “Bismillah! We will not let you go” to “let me go”. It might seem like torture for some, but it’s a crazy little thing called fun for others.
Let’s Sing Queen on Xbox One gets a lot of the basics right. It’s got 30 songs and it’s the ones you would want, give or take the Freddie solo hits, Flash (presumably for copyright reasons) or Seven Seas of Rhye. You get Killer Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now, We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You. No one was tempted to force newer line-ups on us (praise be!), so it’s Freddie in all his glory, with the opportunity for up to eight people to channel him on one Xbox One.
There are no covers or unofficial videos either – these are the hits, played by Queen, with all of the videos that you’d associate with them. It’s I Want to Break Free with the cross-dressing; it’s Radio Ga Ga with the Lycra and air-punching. You even get some nice press shots between the tracks, to show how humongous Queen’s collective hair was at the time of recording.
It all plays well, too. We played on smartphones mostly, and there was no latency, dropout or inaccuracy. USB microphones were top notch (the physical game comes with a microphone, but your USB mic will do fine). The game supports headsets as well.
Having enjoyed Beatles: Rock Band and some of the more ambitious Guitar Heroes like Van Halen, it is a bit of a shame that the game keeps solely to the music videos from the period. There’s no pop-up video style information, narration or other framing. You can obviously work through the songs chronologically to hear the band’s songwriting develop (or not develop, depending on your taste in Queen), but that’s kind of it. Most fans are going to be fine with that, but it would have been great to play a career mode with some archival interviews in between, say – particularly as the band’s story is more entertaining than most.
That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of modes to work through. Like the other modern Let’s Sing games, there are truckloads of ways to order the songs or bring your friends into the fray. Classic Mode is for 1-4 players and is your traditional pick and play; feat. is an opportunity to duet with a partner; Mixtape is for 1-4 players and Wario-wares 5 songs into tiny chunks; Jukebox is just a way to listen to the songs you’ve previously played; LS World Contest is online play on individual tracks, and Let’s Party splits you into two teams of up to four and then spins the wheel to see which minigame is applied to which song.
It’s worth jumping into a few of these. They are all Let’s Sing regulars, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is familiar with them.
Feat. is a real highlight if you have two players, as it generally masters the feel of a duet, something Freddie was never shy of. We had great fun taking turns and occasionally joining forces, and Under Pressure really came into its own here. Mixtape never worked well with us, and I’d suggest you avoid it. It seems to randomly snatch parts of the song, which means you get the verse of a lesser known song with only a few seconds to calibrate. It’s chaotic, but not in a good way. Let’s Party is the centrepiece though, and clearly has been the focus for Let’s Sing over the years. The minigames add some real spice and it can get tactical. We found ourselves bumbling through Breakthru with a modifier that effectively applied the squid weapon from Mario Kart onto the lyrics. You don’t know your partner until they start making up lyrics to a song they vaguely know. It’s a window into their minds.
Throughout, you make progress which unlocks Queen-themed avatars, mixtapes and emblems. There’s nothing truly desirable to be unlocked, though, which has its negatives – you never feel compelled by this progression – but there is the overwhelming positive that no songs are locked off from you. Everything is there from the start. It should also be noted that the presentation is slick and surprisingly characterful, with your chipper avatar thrusting and spinning around in their Freddie cosplay. Let’s Sing has obviously had enough iterations to master its interface and game modes, and Let’s Sing Queen gets to benefit from the refinement.
Let’s Sing Queen gets so much correct, including the stuff you really want it to get right, so it feels nitpicky to highlight the faults. The biggest by far is the stale whiff of vanilla, as minimal work has been done to overlay the Let’s Sing template onto Queen’s discography. It’s a good template, and a clearly functional one that’s been developed over the years, but it’s a shame that the Queen-ness has been reserved solely for the unlocked avatars. There are other smaller niggles, with loading times on the long side, and little opportunity to freestyle, but it’s the FIFA-like resistance to changing things up with this iteration that is the most disappointing.
Queen and Freddie Mercury’s personality may not come through in Let’s Sing Queen on Xbox One, but you probably won’t care. These are the 30 songs you would want, set against a backdrop of the videos you would want to see, with crisp presentation and faultless audio pick-up. Queen’s particular kind of magic comes through the songs, but not the game, and that’s enough.