Reviewed: October 9, 2007
Released: September 13, 2007
Ubisoft and Plato’s Jam Sessions is not so much a game as it is a multipurpose acoustic guitar simulator. To put it straightforwardly, there is no scoring system and not much to unlock. Rather, it is, for the most part, simply a neat program that allows you to use your DS as a musical instrument without having to learn how to play a real guitar.
As far as concept goes, Jam Sessions is an innovative music title for the Nintendo DS. It’s not a game, per se; it doesn’t award points, and it doesn’t directly challenge you to compete against yourself or friends. Instead, it provides software that effectively turns your DS handheld into an easy-to-use (if somewhat limited) electronic acoustic guitar that you can strum with your DS stylus.
Jam Sessions immediately starts you off with a brief tutorial on how to use the software, then gives you four main options to choose from: Tutorial (in case you need a review of the very basics), Warm Up mode, Song mode, and Free Play mode.
Warm Up mode helps beginning players get acclimated to playing chords and songs using the Jam Sessions system, and Song mode provides a selection of twenty different songs (three of which must be unlocked), from David Bowie to Bob Dylan, with chords and strum patterns for you to get further acquainted with the software. Unfortunately, not all of the songs have demo recordings, and it may be difficult to get the hang of reading the software’s slightly confusing strum notation, which doesn’t make it entirely easy to tell how long each note is supposed to be played. Then again, since you’re the musician in Jam Sessions, how you want to strum your guitar is always entirely up to you.
The song list is also fairly short compared to those included with various music games, but that probably won’t bother you if you’re planning on using Jam Sessions as a musical instrument rather than a game.
In any case, the real meat of the software lies in the Free Play mode – which lets you play just about whatever you want – and the respectable number of customization options. Jam Sessions includes over 100 different chords for you to choose from, and you may use one of many preset chord palettes (the sixteen accessible chords that can be selected during play using the control pad and left shoulder button) or create your own to suit the song you want to play. If you want to get fancy, you can choose from a selection of sound-altering effects to add distortion and other textures to your guitar’s sound. You can even tune your simulated guitar to play along more harmoniously with recordings your favorite songs, or you can record short (30-second) clips of your own. Not bad for a DS-based portable guitar.
I mentioned earlier that Jam Sessions is a bit limited, and this is because you can only play entire chords (and not single notes), accomplished by strumming the single virtual string on the DS touch screen with the stylus. To its credit, however, Jam Sessions is probably as accurate of a guitar simulator as you’re bound to find on a handheld, and its simplified single-string system is accessible to non-musicians or beginners seeking to enjoy playing the guitar without too much complicated instruction or hassle. For those seeking a truer guitar simulation or a DS version of Guitar Hero, this title may fall short of your expectations, but otherwise, Jam Sessions is a handy alternative for musically inclined DS owners who don’t have (or can’t yet play) a real guitar.
Jam Sessions’ visuals are clean, easy to read, utilitarian, and pleasantly plain, which is appropriate for its purpose. In fact, it even somewhat resembles a PC program in design, with its popup menus and point-and-click touch screen interface. Navigation is intuitive, and it gets the job done. Additionally, despite its outward lack of frills, the user interface can be personalized and includes a number of possible colors and bold pop-art backgrounds.
What can I say? It sounds like a decently simulated acoustic guitar, especially if you plug it up to some external speakers or headphones. The sound quality changes naturally depending on the direction and motion of your stylus as you strum the virtual string, and the response feels reasonably realistic. The song demos are old-school MIDI, but they’re only there for your reference, so it’s not a big deal.
Songs included are:
Like most DS titles, Jam Sessions retails for $29.99. For a pocket guitar capable of basic recording and sound customization options, it’s not a bad deal if you’re looking for that sort of thing. The included song list may be short, but don’t forget that you can play any number of songs you like in Free Play mode, providing you have (or can figure out) the chords for them.
This title is definitely far more worthwhile for the musically inclined gamer and requires personal interest and initiative to truly enjoy.All in all, I’d have to say that this is an entertaining and versatile little piece of software. Jam Sessions may not be the perfect virtual guitar or recording program, but there’s just something inherently fun about plugging your DS into your favorite pair of speakers and rocking out.
All in all, I’d have to say that this is an entertaining and versatile little piece of software. Jam Sessions may not be the perfect virtual guitar or recording program, but there’s just something inherently fun about plugging your DS into your favorite pair of speakers and rocking out.All in all, I’d have to say that this is an entertaining and versatile little piece of software. Jam Sessions may not be the perfect virtual guitar or recording program, but there’s just something inherently fun about plugging your DS into your favorite pair of speakers and rocking out.
If you’re a casual musician – or not a musician at all, for that matter – and have always yearned to try your hand at playing a bit of guitar, Jam Sessions could be a good choice for you, as it provides basic tools for those who want to dabble in music. It’s not much of a game, and it’s no Guitar Hero, but it’s a pretty decent instrument simulator for the aspiring guitarist.