Reviewed: November 8, 2009
Released: October 20, 2009
Music games have made a huge impact on the gaming industry and itís safe to say that they are not going anywhere. With the latest releases of Guitar Hero 5, The Beatles: Rock Band and Band Hero we gamers are up to our eyeballs in music related titles and plastic guitars. Though there is an alternative that will take up no more room than you back pants pocket or pouch of your backpack.
Jam Sessions 2, the sequel to the 2007 virtual instrument title, hits the DS with more modes and instruments than before. Now personally I passed this titleís predecessor off as a Guitar Hero inspired clone since at the time Guitar Hero: On Tour didnít exist. So when Jam Sessions 2, landed on my desk I was a bit intrigued.
Jam Sessions 2, upon loading it into my DS, heavily reminded me of the Guitar Hero series that the DS has to offer. But just past the Guitar Hero inspired faÁade lays one of the most complex virtual instrument tools that I've seen on a handheld. The only thing that kind of confuses me is what Jam Sessions 2 is trying to be and who itís for.
Jam Sessions 2 offers two main modes of play, Freeplay and Song Book after the initial dominant hand setup. Song Book mode is your basic single player career mode of sorts where you play mediocre covers of songs from various artists. Freeplay is the real experience is at. Here you can play your own tunes to your hearts desire using any of the numerous palettes. The only thing that I find kind of discouraging is that you have to complete the Song Book mode to unlock the different palettes and effectors.
Now just by playing Jam Sessions 2 for a little while I definitely got the impression that this would be a perfect guitarist tool to those that actually play an instrument. The box itself says that it is the only GAME that can make you a BETTER guitar player. Now while I believe that music games do open up people to playing actual instruments, I believe there is no substitute for the real thing. But if youíre an aspiring artist or lack a real guitar then Jam Sessions 2 is a step in the right direction.
Unlike all the Guitar Hero clones out there, Jam Sessions 2 uses a very different interface. Instead of using a Guitar Hero handgrip, players utilize the D-pad, L Button and Touch Screen. Color lines come down the screen that shows all the strings that youíre supposed to strum across which is usually done by strumming across the entire width of the touch screen. Each color line is also associated with a directional arrow that corresponds to the D-Pad. Each arrow direction is a desired guitar chord. There are 4 different chords buttons available as well as 4 more that can be accessed by using the L Button.
One of the cool things about Jam Sessions is that you can up and down strum on the strings which will change the sound of the chords or arpeggio. This becomes very important in the harder difficulties of the single player campaign and can easily cause a fail if you donít pay attention. Jam Sessions 2 offers three different levels of difficulty in the single player experience: basic, medium and hard. You get basic for free, and then you unlocked the other two as you go up in level. You are graded on how well you do on each song and if you did well enough you will earn unlocks such as palettes, guitars, and clips for the Recording Studio.
The Recording Studio allows players to compose their own songs using the library of available clips with matching bass and drum tracks or create your own stuff in real time. There are several features here that you can play with but one of the coolest features is the ability to convert your saved masterpieces into Songbook tracks for you or your friends to play.
For the most part I liked Jam Sessions 2, but I found that I had a hard time playing the Songbook mode for more than 15 minutes at a time due to the somewhat confined controls. I pretty much was holding my DS with my pinkie and index finger as it rested on my palm. To make it a bit more uncomfortable, you are constantly moving your thumb to one of the four arrows, which after a while starts to hurt my thumb.
Graphically, Jam Sessions 2 isnít bad. The chosen artwork is to say the least a bit bizarre and doesnít really go with the pretty clean presentation when you are actually doing Freeplay or Songbook mode. Other than that there isnít much else to add to the graphics category. It feels like the developers were tying to blend a serious game with the fun visuals seen in other music games.
Since this is a music ďgameĒ, the sound is the most important part and Iíve got mixed feeling about the music contained within. The song selection ranges from REM to the Plain White Tís and rather poor and grating cover of ďClosing TimeĒ. But the sound quality overall is not bad at all. No matter if youíre putting tunes together or playing some of the songs in the Songbook, Jam Sessions 2 has a lot to offer in the music department for a handheld title.
Jam Sessions 2 comes with a $30 dollar price tag and can be played on all forms of the DS. If you own a DSi however Jam Sessions 2 offers more functionality by using the camera. By waving you hand in front of your DSi camera you can distort and bend the notes like a wah-wah pedal, which is really cool.
There is no local or Wi-Fi multiplayer functionality as far as playing against each other is concerned. If youíre looking for that Iíd advise finding a couple of Guitar Hero DS games. What you can do is send and receive user created songs from friends who own a copy of Jam Sessions 2.
After a good run through of Jam Sessions 2, I found myself still confused on who this title is really for. On the one side itís a great tool for any guitarist out there with the Freeplay mode, but with the downside of having to play through the Songbook mode ala Guitar hero to unlock the rest of the Freeplay tools. Personally I would have liked it better if this Guitar Hero clone part wasnít there and it was just the Freeplay part. I do recommend this title to any guitarist out there that wants to practice without lugging their guitar around, but for those seeking to just rock some licensed set lists, you know where to go.