Xbox Live presents ... karaoke

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Gamers like to complain that publishers are content to crank out sloppy sequels and boring movie-to-game conversions.

Of course, when innovative games do come along, they rarely leave a blip on the gaming consciousness. When is the last time you heard anyone talking about Rez, a Sega title for the PlayStation 2?

Well, here we go again, although this time the marketing muscle might be powerful enough to make gamers notice.

Microsoft recently sent out previews of its Music Mixer title.

Music Mixer is essentially karaoke, with an Xbox Live twist. There were several songs included on the CD -- an odd mix ranging from "Amazing Grace" to "YMCA" -- and you get a microphone that plugs into the expansion slot on the Xbox controller.

The words light up on the screen as the background vocals and beat play. You sing, your friends laugh and so forth.

The cool part is that when the final version is released this fall, you can buy and download tunes from Microsoft via Xbox Live and store them to the Xbox's hard drive.

You'll also be able to sync your PC with your Xbox, allowing you to sing along to the MP3s stored on your computer.

The syncing software isn't available yet, but it's a cool idea.

There's also an intriguing feature in Music Mixer that lets you insert any audio CD, and Music Mixer will strip out the lyrics and leave the instrumentals so you can sing along. But in the preview version I tried, Music Mixer also stripped out most of the non-bass sounds.

This could be a cool little piece of software, but you can bet hard-core gamers will slam it the moment it hits the market because they'll associate karaoke with drunken businessmen in bars.

In the same vein, Sony is about to release its EyeToy peripheral for the PlayStation2.

It's essentially a small Webcam that you plug in. Sony is promoting simple games where you'll be able to watch yourself on the TV and use your arms and fists to "punch" enemies on the screen.

Yes, it's cheesy, and the technology is clearly more advanced than the games built around it.

But let's see what Microsoft and Sony do with these gadgets.

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