Just Not That Useful
It’s hard to write a critique on Jam Sessions as a game because – well – it’s not really a game, per se. It’s more of a guitar simulator in the plainest and most functional sense. So instead of, say, being put in a ridiculous glam rock fantasy, you get one screen full of chords, a strumming line on another, and you put the two together to strum along to a small selection of radio hits or create and record your own guitar-only tracks. There’s probably a market for Jam Sessions somewhere, but it’s definitely a very niche market. Unless you find it at a budget price, this one’s not worth your time.
What the game does do well is representing the guitar in a complete fashion. You’re playing an acoustic one, and just about every chord and variation is available here. You can program eight notes onto a wedge that you finger by using the d-pad or face buttons, and can use the R button to switch to another wedge, giving you a total of sixteen chords to use in a given song. All you need to do to play is press down a chord you’ve put in your wedge and strum the touch screen.
It works pretty much as advertised, and there’s a slight bit of nuance that prevents it from being a total throwaway; the technology can tell if you’re strumming up or down, for example, so there’s a pleasantly full sound when you strum properly. However, there’s just not a whole lot to do with it. There are a small amount of songs in the game to play along to, but you don’t get to play with a band or anything like that. It’s just you, strumming along with charts as they scroll across the top screen, and maybe the pre-recorded acoustic track if you don’t know the song. There’s no other sounds but you, no goals to meet, nothing new to unlock. In short, this lonely mode quickly fades.
You’ll probably spend most of your time in Jam Sessions tinkering with Free Play mode, which lets you customize all of your chords and record short snippets at a time. If you’re new to music, it can be fun to just mess around with chord patterns and strumming until you find a progression that you like, then saving it for later. This too, though, becomes stale fast. The inclusion of more instruments to play or prefab loops and drumbeats you could drop behind your recordings would have given it much more legs, but you’ll find nothing of the sort here.
If you’re a budding songwriter who always seems to drum up song ideas at the last minute, then perhaps carrying around Jam Sessions in your DS and quickly recording something would prove handy. But unless you’re in that extremely rare predicament all the time, this ‘game’ is just a faded novelty, something you’ll play with for an hour or so and then toss.