“…to make it a viable option for gamers and audio lovers alike the overall package is going to need a serious buff”
Developer: Zivix, LLC
Publisher: Reverb Publishing, 505 Games
Release Date: May 16, 2012
Platform: PSN, XBL
When I was first presented with the chance to review JAM I jumped head first into it as being a musician I enjoy creating music, playing around with music and jamming along to music in equal measure, and this gave me the chance to do just that. It also gave me the chance to dust off my Guitar Hero controller, which now only gets dragged out mid-drinking sessions with friends. The guitar peripheral isn’t a necessity for playing the game, but it is recommended, as attempting to use a conventional controller is quite the struggle.
JAM is essentially a music editor that allows you to play around with the various instrumental layers of a song in real-time and record these to create your own unique tunes that can be played back or played along to. In Jam Mode pressing down on one or several fret buttons on your peripheral and strumming up activates the corresponding instruments - including vocals, piano, guitar and drums- and from here you can hold down one or several fret buttons, strum down, and then begin initiating track loops that will begin playing over one another. Each of these tracks can be started, stopped and manipulated at any time, allowing you to completely re-imagine how the song should sound.
Initially you’re taught via the in-game tutorial how to manage your five core instruments, totaling 25 loops, but you soon discover that up to 15 different instruments can be cycled through using the whammy bar of your guitar controller, making for 75 potential loops that can be infused into your session. These are split into continuous tracks that repeat indefinitely, and freeform tracks that play once through, and can be pressed quickly and consecutively to perform stuttering effects. It all sounds incredibly complicated and at first it will test your patience, but after carefully guiding yourself through the tutorials or challenges as the game likes to call them, then you’ll be making sweet music in no time.
There is a somewhat varied selection of musical genres on offer from the games 32 songs, but because this isn’t an established series with a huge name like Activision behind it you’ll find yourself not recognizing the majority of what is on here. There are a few well-known tracks thrown in such as, ‘Fall Out Boy – Sugar, We’re Falling Down’, ‘Own City – Fireflies’, ‘Lipps, Inc. – Funkytown’ and my personal favourite, ‘Modest Mouse – Float On’, but for every peach there are three stinkers that feel like more a chore to play through than a pleasure, and with no option to import your own music it limits any form of longevity.
That’s part and parcel of where the game falls short. It’s incredibly fun to play through and remix the songs once, maybe twice at a push, but once that’s over with you’re left thinking, “Is this it?” and the answer is yes. There’s an Arcade Mode that allows you to play your songs back using your guitar controller, but it’s nothing like playing a track on Guitar Hero or Rock Band, it’s a clumsy series of button pushes when an elevating bar reaches a certain line. The colours you’re supposed to press are incredibly difficult to make out and the worse you do in trying to figure out this mess, the harder it becomes, and the less time you have to hit the next series of notes.
Then there are the online Leaderboards you can upload your scores to, which is the most trivial thing I’ve ever had the displeasure to witness. This was clearly a feature tacked on at the end to provide some form of online functionality, because it isn’t really about scores in the first place. In Jam Mode you could potentially sit there for hours bashing away at any old button on your controller and your score would elevate into the bazillions if you had nothing better to do. There is absolutely no difference in getting a score of 100 or getting a score of 100,000 and perhaps it would have been more fitting to put some Rolling Stones in the playlist, because I certainly couldn’t get any satisfaction.
If they were going to label this as a game then it needed to include a proper objective-based mode that had more ways to play and varying difficulties. Instead it feels more like a limited music mixer that falls short when compared to many software applications you can download that do much, much more for a similar price. Sure it’s fun to strum along to some catchy songs for a few hours, but don’t we have that already? In closing, it’s an interesting premise to bring to consoles, but it’s clear that to make it a viable option for gamers and audio lovers alike the overall package is going to need a serious buff. For a couple of pounds or dollars it’s worth a quick look over, but for its current price tag it hits a bum note.
Craig Bryan, NoobFeed
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