Unique gameplay and that's about it.
One of the greatest aspects of the Nintendo DS is its versatility in terms of genres and the gameplay included in those genres, so you're always able to find the newest and most innovative titles on the market for your awesome little handheld. Jam Sessions, developed by Plato, is like that in many ways. It combines a unique gameplay experience with a very accurate sound presentation that literally transforms your DS into an acoustic guitar. Unfortunately, Jam Sessions ultimately fails at providing this experience in an engaging way, and even the biggest guitar fanatics out there wont be able to find much to enjoy with this title.
So you want to be a rock star? Well this might not be the best place to start. Jam Sessions really isn't a game, it's essentially a handheld guitar application. The basic premise of the game is to slide your stylus up and down the screen in order to strum the guitar sting, all while you use your other hand to hit the chords on the D-pad. You can go into the settings and turn the lefty controls on; this just switches the fret buttons from the D-pad to the letter buttons. While this seems like a neat idea at first, the feeling quickly fades when you dig a little deeper and find out there isn't much else to do. There is a tutorial, warm up, a song list which is rather lackluster, and free play. The song list ranges from Jimi Hendrix to Avril Lavigne, and comes with twenty songs in all. Not very impressive. But since this is more of a guitar simulator rather than a game, free play is where most of the value lies. This lets you play whatever you want, for as long as you want. Any musically inclined person could easily create their own songs note-by-note. There is also a built in recording feature that lets you record small segments to the game's memory that you can play back at anytime.
There isn't much that needs to be said about the game's visuals, because there really aren't any. You see the string, the notes, and the background. The string animates nicely when struck, and emits a wave of vibrations that shows how long the note is going to last. There are a number of themes you can choose for the game, most of which look pretty cool, but other than that there's nothing to write home about.
Aside from the game's unique gameplay, the sound is its only saving grace. This virtual guitar sounds just like an actual acoustic guitar would, especially when you're plugged into a good pair of headphones. There are some effects you can put on the guitar such as distortion and echoing, but these settings sound pretty bad and you'll likely mess with them once or twice before forgetting they ever existed. Why mess with something that is good to begin with anyway? Needless to say, the sound in Jam Sessions is the single greatest aspect the game has to offer.
As you probably could have guessed by now, Jam Sessions lacks the certain intangibles that are required to have a proper game, and by doing so hinders the game's value in such a way that it's probably not even worth your money. There is no score, no multiplayer, certainly no objective, and it's just simply an uncoupling "game" plain and simple. What this game does best is serve as a below average acoustic guitar, and playing it over a real guitar is just silly. It's a great place to begin your journey into guitar competence, but aside from that this game is most definitely a rent first.
Plato certainly has the idea and the direction, but when it's all said and done, Jam Sessions for the DS is just not there yet. It provides an interesting outlet for your guitar needs, and it sounds really great in the process, but there just isn't enough game here to keep anyone's attention. As a whole, Jam Sessions doesn't appeal to everyone, and only someone looking for a way to play an acoustic guitar without an actual acoustic guitar should even bother with this game.
By Mike Pelletier, Project COE