9 December 07
Having fallen completely head over heels and in love with the Guitar Hero series and lacking the skills to play a real guitar, I thought that Jam Sessions on the Nintendo DS would be a welcome migration (at least until I had saved enough money for Guitar Hero 3). I’d bought it from GameStation in Rhyl (Denbighshire), for a penny under £15 (brand new, not pre-owned), half it’s RRP of £29.99, though I couldn’t play it until several hours later when I’d got back to Leeds (thankfully, no traffic).
The concept of the game sounds simple enough; see a letter, press the corresponding arrow on the d-pad, strum on the touchscreen. Well as we know with most things in life, it’s not as simple as it seems. This game also tries to get you to sing along with the tunes, but lets face it, when have we had any kind of music interaction game where we knew every single song? Those of you out there shaking your heads in a “well actually Darlo, I do!” fashion have to appreciate that not everyone has had the chance to hear and memorise every song ever recorded. Likewise goes for trying to play the songs. The first ten songs do show you how to play them with a demonstration, but once you hit ‘I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know’ by Johnny Cash, you’re on your own my friend (to quote the book “As far as the other songs go, you are on your own … “. That being said with 38 different songs, I think most people will know one or two at least (thankfully of the 7 I knew, 4 were in that first ten). Unfortunately none contain singing, so if you don’t know the tune it’s like a bad moment at a karaoke night.
For those of you a bit more used to playing your own tunes or infact other peoples tunes, there is a rather cool free-play section where you can just play as you feel. You can also record anything you play to show off to your friends at a later time, or even to just look back and try to improve anything. However when you do save it, there’s no option for naming the track so finding it again (if you’ve saved multiple tracks) might not be easy. Try not to go too save-happy though, because there’s only room for five saves. So if you’re really chuffed with a chord you just played, you might want to think twice about saving it, although tracks can be saved to an external device (like a dictophone/sound recorder) using audio cables available from most electronic stores.
As far as game-play goes, Jam Sessions doesn’t really have any set structure. With the exception of your own personal satisfaction of being able to play all of the tracks, there’s nothing to aim for; no ultimate bosses, no tracks to unlock (see note at the bottom), not even high scores. Unfortunately it seems that Ubisoft forgot that they were making a game and went straight into making a DS guitar. However I’m not reviewing a portable electronic musical instrument, I’m review what was advertised and what I bought; a game. Although no one can take away it’s ground-breaking method of helping ‘Average Kazuki’ learn the ideals and fundamentals playing a guitar. The tutorials are very easy to follow and I did find myself able to play ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay in about 15 minutes (though not fantastically well).
To sum up, I don’t want to sound like I’m putting Jam Sessions down too hard because I really do feel it had (and still does have should a sequel emerge) the potential to be the next big thing. The overall idea for the game (though previously seen) was awesome, and I think my friends enjoyed hearing me play (though made a quick exit at the end). The abillity to cater for left handed players also means that the majority of people are capable of having a go. You can get an external amplifier also to really bring out the sounds. I think a two player option could have added a new dimension to the game (for duets and so on), or even making use of WiFi/Connector mode to send save files to friends. Although I’ll be sticking to Guitar Hero (so close to getting Free Bird on Expert Mode on Guitar Hero 2), I’ll be keeping an eye out for a second version of Jam Sessions.
Songs Included (tracks with * have demonstration, also see Note at bottom)
*Jack Ass – Beck
*Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
*No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley
*Yellow – Coldplay
*I Will Follow You Into The Dark – Death Cab for Cutie
*Over My Head – The Fray
*The Man Who Sold The World – Nirvana
*I’m With You – Avril Lavigne
*Life Is A Highway – Rascal Flatts
*No Rain – Blind Melon
I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know – Johnny Cash
Me & Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin
Never Can Say Goodbye – Jackson 5
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Wild Thing – Jimi Hendrix
You Know I’m No Good – Amy Winehouse
Needles & Pins – Tom Petty
I’m Not Sorry – The Pidgeon Detectives
J’ai Demande A La Lune – Indochine
Voila L’ete – Les Negresses Vertes
J’t’emmene Au Vent – Louise Attaque
Respire – Mickey 3D
Je Sais Pas Jouer – Pierpoljak
Chica De Ayer – Nacha Pop
Hoy No Me Puedo Levantar – Mecano
Cadillac Solitario – Loquillo
Adios Papa – Los Ronaldos
A Quien Le Importa – Alaska Y Dinarama
Centro Di Gravita Permanente – Battiato
Je So Pazzo – Pino Daniele
Piu Bella Cosa – Eros Ramazzotti
Come Saprei – Giorgia
Il Mio Corpo Che Cambia – Litfiba
Perfekte Welle – Juli
Irgendwie Irgendwo Irgendwann – Nena
Geile Zeit – Juli
Open Your Eyes – Guano Apes
Although there is no mention to it within the game, in the instruction book, on the box, on the smile of the cute girl who puts the game in a bag and takes your money, it turns out there are four unlockable songs! These can be unlocked by pressing a certain combination of d-pad keys during Free-Play mode. Bit of a cheeky cheat really. By pushing up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right (X, X, B, B, Y, A, Y, A in left handed mode) you can play ‘See Ya’ by Bell Book & Candle, ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)’ by James Taylor, ‘Surrender’ by Cheap Trick, and ‘I’m Gonna Miss Her’ by Brad Paisley.