In my final year of secondary school, a few like-minded chums and I thought it would be funny to audition for the Christmas production. It was Victor Hugo's Les Miserables that year, and I found myself assuming the role of not one, but four different characters, which really put to the test my versatility as a young actor. I received rave reviews for my portrayal of the fiery Foreman (my mate Sam said I was amazing). As Courfeyrac, a student of the revolution, I had surprised myself by reaching the vocal heights of several solos. My horny sailor was particularly entertaining for the ladies in the audience (I was the subject of much female attention at school afterwards). And my Mum really liked that one scene I did near the end as a waiter. Other than this admittedly diverse catalogue of work, however, I've had very little acting experience.
Having said that, there was also that one time I put on my best Austrian accent and pretended to be the Terminator in front of the CEO of the YooStar Entertainment Group. You might remember it, actually.
So, this preview details my second experience with YooStar2 - the movie karaoke game that started life as a website. This time around I had the luxury of the full roster of clips launching with the game. My attentions were immediately drawn to Zoolander - a film I've seen so many times that I've now lost count. While I was hoping to re-enact the classic verbal sparring match between Derek and Hansel before the walk off (hopefully this will be added in DLC at some point soon), I was more than happy to perform the bit where Derek wakes up after his brainwashing at the day spa.
Matilda: I've been trying to reach you for a week.
Derek Zoolander: A week? What, are you having a whack attack? I saw you this afternoon, dum-dum.
Matilda: That was last Friday.
Derek Zoolander: Uhh Earth to Matilda, I was at a day spa. Day, D-A-I-Y-E. Okay?
The script keeps rolling along the top of the screen; turns out I chose one of the longest (and hardest) scenes in the collection. I would have liked to transcribe more of it, to be honest - it's all comedy gold, after all - but there'd be little space left here to convey my thoughts on Yoostar2 itself. The scene plays out under this seemingly endless script, only with Ben Stiller cut out and replaced with my good self. It still looks weird when you play it back, though, because although I was supposed to be chatting with the lovely Matilda (Christine Taylor), I found myself staring off into space, reading an imaginary script in the sky. Unless you know your lines off by heart (or don a pair of sunglasses) the scenes can look really quite peculiar when you watch them back.
The next vignette I played was from The Princess Bride; the immortal scene where Inigo Montoya is talking about his reasons for becoming a badass swordsman:
Inigo Montoya:...without a word, the six-fingered man slashed him through the heart. I loved my father. So naturally, I challenged his murderer to a duel. I failed. The six-fingered man left me alive, but he gave me these.
[strokes the scars on his cheeks]
Man in Black: How old were you?
Inigo Montoya: I was 11 years old. And when I was strong enough, I dedicated my life to the study of fencing. So the next time we meet, I will not fail. I will go up to the six-fingered man and say, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
The emotion and poignancy I lavished upon that last sentence - prepare to die - was nothing short of Oscar-worthy. I half expected the amiable PR chap demoing the game to me to start clapping, or crying or something, and I felt slightly dismayed when he didn't. The five stars I received as a score was a small compensation, I suppose. After each scene, the game breaks down your performance, grading your posture, timing, energy and such. The microphone on the PlayStation Eye picks up the most acute noises, however, meaning that these score breakdowns are constantly criticising you for being too early with your lines and talking over your co-stars. If you're going to play YooStar2 on the PS3, make sure you're playing in a vacuum, or somewhere equally as quiet.
It's worth pointing out that last time I played the game, it was the Kinect-enabled 360 version. I'll avoid beating around the bush here: the PS3 version is notably inferior to its Xbox sibling. The first thing I noticed was the distorted audio - although I was told this would be fixed prior to release. More worrying was the fact that the camera had trouble distinguishing between foregrounds and backgrounds, turning each scene into a horrible mess of jagged black where it had tried to cut out something from the clip that it shouldn't have. Before each take you have to calibrate the hardware, first by standing out of the camera's view, and then pressing the Square button to take a shot of the room you're in. While it's not that a big a deal, it's not something you'll have to do in the Kinect version.
I was quietly enthusiastic when I first saw Yoostar 2. Despite the raised eyebrows and general lack of zeal for it in the office, it's an undeniably interesting use of the new camera technologies. There's something inherently entertaining about seeing yourself on screen, especially when it's alongside the likes of Ben Stiller, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Humphrey Bogart. The idea is certainly interesting, but I worry that the final product will be let down in its execution - the PS3 version in particular is plagued by several technological issues. It's not game-breaking, but as Yoostar 2 is the birth of something entirely new, it needs to be tight and incredibly well-polished when it launches. It's only a month or so away from release at time of writing, so hopefully the time is used well.
YooStar2 is available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in Q1 2011.