I doubt games like American Popstar will resonate so much without the help of shows like American Idol. Taking the character and skill development parts from The Sims and the premise of talent shows, American Popstar challenges to create the next music idol.
You start the game with a dream that you’re already a star. As you throw yourself from the stage on to the crowd, you experience a rude awakening back to reality. Your mother is trying to wake you in your bedroom, you still live at home, she wants you to kiss her on the cheek and you haven’t yet brushed your teeth or showered. If you’ve already played The Sims, you can already tell from the previous sentence what kind of attributes are in play. Spend time improving your hygiene and you’ll get hungry. Reducing hunger means eventually you’ll have to go to the bathroom. Conversations with other characters include joking, complimenting, criticizing or striking up general subjects. Depending on the type of personality you encounter and your own charm and humor ratings, you’ll have to adopt different approaches. A mentor, for example, will not teach you until you gain their trust through this.
Of course it’s not as pedantic as simply increasing and decreasing bar graphs. There are plenty of scripted events, like being bullied by other contestants or getting nervous before going on stage that will increase stress and part of the game will be finding ways to balance those effects. American Popstar would probably get along quite well being a sandbox Sims only type of game. But it actually comes with a pretty strong storyline.
For the initial parts of the game, your mother’s advice will play a great deal in opening up locations for you to travel to as you familiarize yourself with different parts of the game. Rather than simply watching your cartoon persona belt out tunes, Gameloft has put in mini games that serve to add another level of challenge. For example, singing is carried out by playing a simplified version of Guitar Hero. Dancing is a horizontal variant of Dance Dance Revolution. The mini games themselves are diverting and you may find yourself hooked to one.
Although your goal will be to gather as many fans, votes and popularity as possible to become a celebrity, the game doesn’t feel repetitive because it’s helped by great writing, sitcom like moments and a rich environment for you to explore in. The American Popstar environments are teeming with people and objects to interact with.
The visuals for American Popstar are quite charming. It borrows liberally from previous Gameloft titles like Miami Nights and New York Nights but I really liked the style. This game feels more focused than the other ones where you were supposed to become a celebrity so you worked on networking and such. This one has a definite goal where you have to become a pop idol so I found the activities, characters and events more understandable as stepping stones to that goal. I really liked the fact that Gameloft has incorporated a ton of 21st century social networking and Web 2.0 culture into this game. You’ll be making videos of yourself to upload to the Internet and setting up a MySpace page (it’s called Meandmylife in the game) to attract fans. In the beginning you’ll have your parents as your only ‘friends’ but as the game goes on you’ll get more and more people. I’m sure if I was ten years younger, I’d understand some of it a heck of a lot more but I really liked the attention to detail.
American Popstar is a fantastic game for anyone who has a passing interest in shows like American Idol. You’ll feel right at home. Fans of The Sims will also appreciate this game. On the surface it may seem open ended with a myriad of options but it’s completely accessible and fun to play. You’ll love growing your on screen persona into a superstar. In fact, now that I’ve done it with a male idol, I’m going to restart and shoot for a female diva.