"Isn’t the X-Factor already a game?" we hear you ask. Well, yeah. But now you can blast out a ballad, bust some moves, build your ego and behave like a pop diva… all from the tiny insides of your mobile phone.
The format owes a lot to the Guitar Hero
school of gameplay, with plenty of X-Factor touches thrown in, naturally. So as well as hitting the right notes as they slide along the bottom of your screen every round, you’ll also need to pull off some snazzy dance moves in a secondary game by following the correct arrow at the appropriate time. All of which is done using the mobile phone’s joystick controller or keys – after all, your fellow commuters would likely frown if you suddenly threw a dancemat down in the middle of the bus!
The first surprise comes when you start the opening round of auditions: don’t expect to recognise the judges. There’s no pixelated version of the Cowell to berate your performance or your fashion sense (the latter being one of the five attributes you can increase as the game goes on). And there’s no Cheryl Cole letting her heart rule her head.
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Once you’re through the first round and win your place in the final group of contestants, a larger world opens up to you. Chilling in your hotel at the end of each round gives you the chance to phone home (or chat to the press when your fame increases), change outfits, check on your progress and see what news coverage you’ve been getting. That sounds like a lot of personalisation but in actual fact this area could do with more features to hold the attentions of the teens likely to buy this game. Three outfit choices for top, trousers and shoes isn’t enough.
Additional areas do open up as you get through the following rounds, with two of them allowing you to hone those all important dance and singing skills. Do well enough and you’ll build up your stats thanks to bonus awards. Oddly, there’s no explanation as to whether you’re better off trying to increase one attribute over another, so in the end we opted for an even spread. By the time you reach the final, you should almost be maxed out on most of them anyway.
The second area also provides three new games to help boost your skills. A trolley dash around the mall takes inspiration from Pac-Man, while a chance to meet-and-greet the fans is quite a basic game that harks back to the early days of mobile fare.
Out of all the activities up for grabs our favourite was the chance to bash the beats on the drum kit. The pleasure of hitting a perfect round makes this excercise one you’ll want to repeat. Of course, this doesn’t appear in the main X-Factor rounds, as that’s strictly a singing and dancing competition.
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Career mode binds all of those different aspects together, but only one person can compete at a time. Launch a new persona and a new career and it overwrites the previous one. Thankfully, all of those individual games can be tackled as standalone challenges without going before the judges. That’s ideal for those quick attempts when you find yourself with five minutes to kill.
The repetitive nature of the tasks shouldn’t hook you in, but anyone with that defective gaming gene will find themselves wanting "just one more go…" And we have to admit that in one later round of the career mode we missed our tube stop because we were too busy dancing. It’s a shame, then, that it won’t take much persistence for regular gamers to break through to the finals and blow away the competition (with your smooth moves and singing voice, this aint no shooter). We estimate it took less than five hours for us to pummel the opposition. Still, that’s an awful lot of bus journeys and there’s enough to keep casual gamers interested after that. And, for some, this may be their one chance to win The X-Factor…