I was dreading going to the Yoostar2 preview event. It's not something I'm proud to admit, but I contemplated staying in bed that morning, and making up some elaborate excuse about my dog eating my dictaphone. The thought of standing in front of a TV, putting on an accent and pretending to be Arnold Schwarzenegger as a room full of people cringed at my horrendous acting skills really wasn't floating my boat. Sure, the technology is cool, but who'd want to put themselves through such an ordeal? Once again I find myself cursing my snap judgements, because Yoostar2 is surprisingly entertaining. After seeing my gorgeous face appear in iconic film scenes such as Forrest Gump and King Kong, I couldn't help but smile.
If you're wondering why you haven't heard of the first Yoostar game, it's simply because there wasn't one. The original Yoostar is a combination of PC hardware, movie-karaoke software and social features that allow users to put themselves into famous film scenes, and then share the recorded video with a community. To do this, however, you first need to buy a web cam, green screen and stand, remote control, and Yoostar software - which is all a bit of a hassle, especially for those not technologically inclined. Yoostar2 does away with all that, making use of Kinect, the PlayStation Eye and Move to create a more accessible, streamlined version of the service.
I'd imagine the concept of 'movie karaoke' is quite bewildering to anybody who hasn't seen the game in action, so let's go over the basics. First, you choose a scene. Yoostar2 comes with 60 movie clips out of the box, including The Terminator, The Godfather, Casablanca, The Blues Brothers, Anchorman, The Matrix and Team America, with a further 500 available through an integrated Yoostar Store. Next you'll choose the actor in the scene you want to 'play' as, and positioning yourself in the silhouetted area outlined by the game, the Kinect camera (or PlayStation Eye, if you're playing on PS3) will 'scan you in'. The clip will then play (with you in it) and you'll have to deliver the lines of the scene as a teleprompter notifies you what to say. With the scene finished, the video will play back and you'll be able to see just what a fool you've made out of yourself.
The actual process of acting the scene out is quite strange, at least initially. In real life, actors are able to see the scene around them and react to their co-stars as they would in a real conversation. In Yoostar, however, players have to imagine the scene around them, which is incredibly hard to do when you're concentrating on delivering the correct lines. You have to be aware of where you're looking, and your facial expressions. It's certainly an art, and as with anything in life, it takes time to master. A score system lets you know how you're getting along and will reward your timing, delivery and physical actions in each scene. The hook is in trying to beat these scores, just as you would in something like Guitar Hero or Rock Band.
After you've performed a few scenes, your confidence will inevitably grow. It's at this point you might find yourself ad-libbing and altering the script for the purposes of comedy. This is where Yoostar really shines, when players start being creative and using the features of the game to create something unique. Chatting with Greg Fischbach, CEO of the Yoostar Group, after playing the game, he showed me some examples of particularly imaginative users. This guy, for example, has completely changed the script from this scene in Employee Of The Month, using props and the dialogue of his co-star Dane Cook to create something really quite funny.
Of course you could choose to ditch other actors altogether, and simply use a static background from a film scene to do your own thing. You could use the Enterprise from Star Trek to act out your own space opera, or create your very own horror flick using a dark, blood stained warehouse from the Saw series. You're only limited by your own creativity, and providing you're not going to get naked and shout profanities, your masterpiece can be uploaded straight from the game to the Yoostar community. This community is already thriving, but with the impending addition of the outspoken gamer community, the Yoostar website is going to become a much more interesting place to hang out.
Once you've cast aside your preconceptions and abandoned your nerves, Yoostar starts to come into its own. It's hard not to be impressed when A-list celebrities from some of the most iconic film scenes of all time are replaced by bumbling amateurs. It's embarrassing, funny, and inexplicably entertaining. While I'm not sure it'll infiltrate the living rooms of the party scene quite as successfully as Rock Band and co, the game will undoubtedly be at its best when shared with friends and a few drinks - for people of a nervous disposition such as myself, probably more than a few.
Yoostar 2 will be available on 360 and PS3 this Christmas