Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jam Sessions

If you’re the sort of person who’s inclined to buy Jam Sessions for the DS, you probably think you already know what you’re getting yourself in for. You think you’re buying a freeform guitar simulator, clearly less cerebral than the act of actually playing a guitar and yet a good tier more creative than yet another iteration of Guitar Hero. What you’re actually buying is, effectively, an empty box.

See, where you went wrong was that you saw that the developer was Ubisoft, and went ahead and spent money anyway. You poor, misguided fool. I paid $15 for this thing out of a bargain bin, sold it to a friend a week later for $10, and still feel like my wallet has been intimately violated. Owning this thing is a stain that won’t ever wash off, no matter how long I leave my DS to soak in the kitchen sink.

What’s in Jam Sessions feels like something that never made it out of beta. It may not have even made it into beta. It’s not a game, it’s not an application, it barely even qualifies as a screensaver.

Basically, Jam Sessions lets you map a handful of guitar chords to the face buttons, and then play them by holding the appropriate button while “strumming” the stylus across the DS touchscreen. Strumming up or down produces different effects. If that sounds awkward and unappealing, it’s because it is.

This is normally where I’d go on to tell you how this core concept is then used in a variety of game modes, challenges, freestyle options, and possibly multiplayer. Unfortunately Jam Sessions doesn’t have any of those things. You can map the chords, and then play them. That’s it.

To be fair, the game comes with a bunch of songs of varying quality. More accurately, it comes with the Jam Sessions equivalent of sheet music for a bunch of songs of varying quality, which you can play along to – or not, as the game can’t tell whether or not you’re playing them correctly. You can get the game to play the chords for each song to show you how they go; sometimes these renditions are even recognisable as the songs they claim to be.

The game also provides the lyrics, but if you don’t already know how the vocal track to the song goes then there’s no guidance here. You’ll have to get the song off the internet and listen to it or something if you have aspirations to sing along.

There’s also no band backing – you get lead guitar, and that’s it. No drums, no bass or rhythm, just strumming until you weep bitter tears of hatred into the barren cartridge slot of your DS. You can record a certain amount of your misshapen efforts to the cartridge, including any vocal stylings you may have directed at the microphone, but really the only reason you’ll want to do this is to engage in some sort of weird Pavlovian conditioning when you play them back later, in the unlikely event that the name “Ubisoft” doesn’t already make you flinch and cower.

Don’t think that this is nevertheless something you will enjoy; it is not. Don’t think that you have the patience to extract enjoyment from this unfinished waste of code; you do not. If you absolutely must generate freestyle electronic music, I strongly suggest that you take advantage of a large variety of freeware available at your local internet, and leave Jam Sessions sprawled unappealingly across your game retailer’s half-price table like the drunken smelly hobo that it is.


Grant said...

Besides, surely anybody wanting to make random blurps and noises on their DS would have already bought Electroplankton...

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