Make your mark in the music biz with Popscene: Track 2

Manage a pop music act with this lone wolf sim.

Popscene: Track 2 is an updated release of "lone wolf" developer MDickie's music industry sim. Like the original, your 3D characters build a musical act and then manage its rise to fame and fortune--if you're good enough, that is. Along the way, you'll also have to deal with the many personal and career issues that beset music industry big shots, including unreasonable bosses, crazy fans, and even a scandal or two. The competition is tougher, too, with six record labels repping more than 100 acts, and all of them vying for a top spot on the charts. You'll have to watch the charts as well as read the music press and follow the personal lives of the characters to get your act to the top and keep it there.

Popscene: Track 2 opened in full-screen mode with its menu screen showing. The game's options include program settings such as screen resolution and a choice of regular or animated shadows as well as game-specific setups such as the size of your entourage (we like to keep it real so we kept the default setting, a few close friends). You can import settings and characters from previous versions, but we started with a New Career. We selected a character from Popscene's grid list, though you can build one up, too. As soon as you start a new session, you begin work on a new album, so the program's instructions recommend using the Publishing screen to name your project, specify a source for music tracks (such as a CD or your MP3 files) and even create album cover art. When the 3D scenes are in action, players have little to control, but the game does let you use the cursor and A-Z keys to override the camera and point it where you want to. Clicking F12 saves a screenshot.

Let's get the issue on the minds of many out of the way: Track 2's graphics are improved over the original Popscene, but this game doesn't pretend to compete with major studios in terms of graphics or detail. It does aspire to be just as much fun, though, and it's a fascinating (and highly educational) look into the music biz.

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