Get On Da Mic is a great concept–a rap-karaoke game that lets players grab the microphone and bust the rhymes of 40 smash-hit rap and hip-hop songs.
For many of you, this game will be a good addition to your game library and one more reason to invite friends over to initiate a party-like atmosphere. The graphics aren't the best and the on-screen lyrics setup isn't the friendliest, but those aspects can be tolerated. However, those of you that consider yourself diehard fans of rap and hip-hop are especially going to want to think long and hard before dropping down the $50 for this game, because many of the tracks are different from how you remember them, which may significantly influence how well you play the game and how much you enjoy it.
The menus and options include practice, exhibition, freestyle, career, and a multiplayer freestyle mode. The freestyle mode lets players make up their own raps, just for fun. You can pick a background beat from one of the included tracks or choose from 40 custom beats that are specifically included just for this mode. The multiplayer freestyle mode lets two players compete and lets a third person choose the winner on the control pad.
Track selection includes a total of 40 cuts spanning the entire history of hip-hop and rap. Here's a list of some of the tracks included in Get On Da Mic:
The career mode has an American Idol flavor, but isn't as involved as we were initially led to believe it would be. That's fine–features get yanked out during the course of development all the time in this industry (like the co-op multiplayer mode that was also announced and then not included). We just want to make sure that those of you who were looking forward to a deep create-a-rapper mode know that it didn't quite make it into the game as originally described. In the career mode, you can pick from one of 10 stock characters or create your own. The goal is to take your character and start out as a rookie MC in small bar and house party venues and gain street cred to work your way up to performances in larger venues, such as dance halls, stadiums, and (yes, say it with me) MTV's Total Request Live. At the start of each stage, you're shown a potential list of tracks and have to choose the one that you'll perform. The list changes as you work your way up the ladder, with harder (faster) raps replacing the easier ones along the way. Celebrities, such as Jadakiss, MTV's Sway, and MC Green Lantern, appear along the way to root on your progress. Also, the cash you earn from each song can be used to buy new clothing and accessory items for your character; things like caps, shirts, pants, shoes, and jewelry; as well as new stereos, cars, and cribs–although these bigger items are only shown during load screens and in cinematic cutaways.
Your performance is judged based on how well you can fit your rapping to the lyrics indicated on-screen. The lyric display is confined to a two-line horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen. A color bar moves through the words, indicating when to speak them. The game can't tell if you're saying the words or phrases correctly; only that you're speaking when you should be and not speaking when you shouldn't. A score multiplier builds up on the right side of the screen. Each time it fills up, subsequent points are multiplied. If you nail enough verses, you earn bonus points and the score multiplier gets a big boost, kicking the game into "rock the mic" mode, which causes money to fall from the sky or strobe lights to go off. This system is adequate, but nowhere as user-friendly as the large display and in-motion lyrics setup that Konami's Karaoke Revolution games use. The main problem is that the lyrics aren't updated quick enough to warn players of the next verse, which means that you're going to really need to learn these songs by heart before you can pass them.
As you can probably tell from the "as made popular by" notation next to all of the tracks in the song list, Eidos didn't use the original songs but instead re-recorded them using studio artists. Many of the remakes are near-exact copies of the originals, some are close enough to be forgiven, and others are downright broken. Unfortunately, "close enough" and "broken" may pose a real problem to diehard rap and hip-hop fans who already know and love these tracks. Hearing someone else's voice belting out rhymes from Missy Elliot and Dr. Dre doesn't always feel right. In some cases, words have been changed or new lines added (!). In other cases, the game makes you sing an unrelated chorus instead of the main chorus. For instance, when DMX is belting out "X gon' give it to ya, he gon' give it to ya" during the chorus of X Gon Give It To Ya , the game wants you to belt out the "whuts" and "yeahs" instead of the passionately charged main refrain. Many of the word changes came about because censored versions of the songs were used, but they're not always so predictable. It's silly that phrases containing the words "weed" or "dope" were deleted entirely, including instances where "dope" is used as a synonym for hot or great, while slang terms for drugs were left in.
Atmospherically, the game tries to recreate the look and feel of a live performance, but the graphics don't exactly get the job done. The environments and crowds are pretty bare. On the stage, you can see your chosen character rapping into the mic and jigging around with his hip-hop dance moves, while his DJ and back-up entourage do their stuff right behind him. Strobe lights, video cutaways, and ever-changing camera angles lend a little music-video flare to the whole thing. However, after you play a song or two, you'll notice that your character's body and mouth movements don't actually match up with the lyrics to the song. This becomes pretty obvious in tracks that have lengthy non-lyrical breakdowns, because he'll be moving his lips and jumping around wildly totally in opposition to what the music dictates.
Ultimately, how much enjoyment you get out of Get On Da Mic will depend on how nitpicky you are. The off-sync graphics are more humorous than they ought to be, the lyrics display makes it tough to keep up with subsequent verses, the censoring on some tracks is hit or miss, and the arrangement of some tracks puts focus on verses and choruses that aren't the main parts of the rap. Individually, any of those problems could be forgiven. Taken together, they make it tough to recommend this game to longtime fans of rap and hip-hop. For casual fans though, and for those people that just want another music or party game to bring into the house, Get On Da Mic actually isn't so bad.