“Hey man wanna come over and jam?” Mick said to Keith, as he quickly replied “Sure, I’ll grab my DS and be right over”. This might not be how the Stones started their musical journey, but you never know, Jam Sessions could start the next evolution of rock.
If you looking for an alternative rhythm based game to fuel your portable Guitar Hero needs, Jam Sessions isn’t the road you will need to take. You see, Jam Sessions isn’t a game, it’s a simulation application. Jam Sessions successfully turns your Nintendo DS into an guitar simulator with the ability to create your own music or jam along with tabbed out favorites. Jamming with jam sessions could be an alternative way to write songs, or practice songs without your instrument. If you are a guitar player, Jam Sessions has some benefits; however it’s not the perfect guitar application it could have been.
Learning to Jam within Jam Sessions is brilliantly handled by the “Tutorial” mode that can be selected from the main menu. Before you start you DS career in music it is highly recommended that you run through the tutorial. First the tutorial will turn you how to play. During this you will learn Jam Sessions unique innovative controls on reproducing a guitar. Innovating the choice to use the D-Pad is the perfect to way to change chords on the fly; a flick of the thumb is all it takes to move from a C to G7 to Em. On the DS’s bottom screen there is a single line displayed that represents a wound guitar string. To make sounds, like a real guitar you hold down a chord (the d-pad) and then strum on the strings (touch screen). Making music on the Nintendo DS through Jam Sessions is extremely easy moving the stylus in the same motion you would a guitar pick. Compared to the real deal, you couldn't have made it any easier and before you know it you will be strumming love songs for your loved ones, and writing you own acoustic opus.
If you want more chords then the one the current palette displays you can hold down the left shoulder button to access eight a total of sixteen chords. You can even swap and save your own pallet with a total of 120 chords. In total 120 chords is a good selection to get you through most songs with all the minor sevens you will ever need. Better than chords, you can add effects to change up the sound of your instrument. The DS provides you with six banks to store effects in that can be mixed up with two effects in each bank.
For the gear heads reading you can change the drive, mix, low cut, and high cut on the distortion. The distortion is what is expected on a modeled reproduction, it’s not going to be an impressive as a vintage Vox-AC30. The delay, chorus, tremolo and flange do an adequate job sounding more the part with full adjustments of the delay time, mix, depth and rate and feedback gain. Compared to the generic Boss stomp boxes the DS variety is good enough to bring back some memories of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter.
Besides changing your chord palette and tweaking effects you can also change the game settings with details like preferred picking direction, picking speed velocity, hand orientation and more. The theme of the background can be adjusted in the settings as well bringing up changes to your guitar string to the background colours with selections of different colours to custom made art. In total there are 60 different backgrounds to choose from and 8 different string variations. Digging deeper within Jam Sessions I found out that you can add a metronome or tune the DS’s pitch shown in cent units. Pitch control is helpful if you want to try and duplicate real music, or record your own music in a different pitch. The metronome is also useful when used correctly as a tool to keep your rhythm locked in perfect time.
Now that you’re all tuned up, geared up and ready to rock, what can you do with Jam Sessions besides strumming away writing your own music? Well, you can jam with the built-in music that acts like guitar tabs to 20 songs from popular artists across a number of varied music genres. Some of the featured artists in Jam Sessions include The Fray, Nirvana, Avril Lavigne, Blind Melon, Johnny Cash, and Jackson 5. You’ll know a good number of the songs and I have to admit Ubisoft did a good job picking interesting songs that don’t fall into the standard realm of Brown Eyed Girl and Mustang Sally.
If you go to the "Free-Play" section and enter the classic Konami code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right) you will unlock a few extras; these include Jimi Hendrix’s "Wild Thing", "I’m Gonna Miss Her" by Brad Paisley, the erratic Amy Winehouse with "You Know I’m No Good" and lastly "Needles and Pins" by Tom Petty. Playing through the song selection in Jam Sessions is mildly satisfying, however it doesn’t feel the same as the real deal. It’s unfortunate Jam Sessions doesn’t have the rest of the band playing, so you could jam with the song in full, adding the guitar. Playing these songs solo is a little dull even if you’re trying to swipe, change chords and sing along at the same time. Oddly, the one factor missing from Jam Sessions is the jamming.
Jam Sessions from Ubisoft is a unique guitar simulation application that doesn’t have any merit as a game, however as a portable mini guitar, it works. Jam Session’s is suited to be a side tool for guitar players or musicians. In general there isn't too much appeal too grab gamers who want to learn music. It would be far better to throw down a hundred dollars and buy a cheap guitar. The idea behind Jam Sessions had good intentions, although with a cartridge label Jam Sessions, I’d like to jam with something more than a metronome.
Jam Sessions is interesting project that is worth a look if you already dabble with guitar playing, or want an easy way to sound like you can play the guitar without building up those calluses. I can also seem Jam Sessions being up the alley of alternative musicians who want to seek to use its electronic sound to create music. It’s hard to rate a product such a Jam Sessions, let’s just say on a whole it’s missing a few notes, but the chord still sound good.
Gameplay:7, Graphics:6, Sound:8, Innovation:8, Mojo:7. Final: 7.2 / 10