Jam With The Band Review

Jam With The Band

It seems that since the rise and rise (and subsequent slump/fall) in popularity of music-based video games, everyone who can press buttons at the correct time designated by a computer/console thinks they’re a musician. While the reality is that skill in music games and actual musical talent really aren’t that strongly related, people still enjoy these games year after year, even if they have gotten a bit less popular and have faded into the background a bit.

The Guitar Hero crazy has most definitely subsided, and not many people are really talking about games like Rocksmith anymore, even though it provides the player with some pretty valuable guitar-learning lessons. You can still find a few thrills in some of the older titles as well though, and on platforms that you may not expect. Jam with the Band is a sort of follow up to an original Japanese-only title called Daigasso! Band Brothers and it has a surprising amount of musical power considering that it is a game for one of the smallest “consoles” around, the Nintendo DS.

Jam with the Band doesn’t really follow suit with the rest of the music games like Guitar Hero in that there isn’t actually a career mode to play through. Instead, we have a selection of three modes – sing, play, and studio – which can be played through at the behest of the player without having to follow through a rigid structure. The format of playing through songs is similar to the classic Rock Band-style games however, with the requirement of pressing various buttons (or singing various tunes) in time with the corresponding ones on screen in order to achieve the best rating possible. It’s simple to start with but the difficulty increases substantially the more you play through it.

The selection of musical tracks to play through comes at a standard 50 to begin with, with 50 more available for download over wi-fi. Don’t expect any kind of high-quality renditions of any of your favourite songs however, since we’re dealing with versions that aren’t too much better than midi quality, though this doesn’t really take much away from the experience as it goes. The great thing about Jam with the Band is that there is a range of instruments that feature in each song, with between 6 and 8 on average. Much like in Wii Music, you will find some fairly generic songs of a popular nature in the mix (We are the Champions, for example) and also some classic videogame soundtracks such as that of Super Mario.

The unfortunate thing about the game is that it is of course limited to the DS platform and therefore hasn’t really got that many input options. You can strum the guitar with your stylus but other instruments like drums, synths, or piano are simply played by pressing the various buttons at the right time.

As mentioned above, the difficulty levels range from laughably easy to substantially frustrating. At its easiest, you only need to worry about dealing with one button in total but at its most difficult, you will be using every single button on the DS including the L and R buttons to change the octave of the notes according to how high or low they are. This results in some seriously difficult gameplay and seems like Nintendo really were trying to annoy us with some of the difficult renditions on the higher difficulty settings.

Aside from the Sing and Play modes, Studio is your only other option, though it is a very interesting one because it allows you to actually create your own melodies and tracks, overlaying them onto backing tracks and exporting them for use in the game. Don’t bother humming your tune in because the game isn’t very good at detecting the right notes but the keyboard input is fairly accurate, even if you are restricted to seeing only one octave at a time. There is also a professional version of the studio that allows you to edit notes directly like in the well-known Sibelius software, though obviously with less power and choice in general. If all other modes fail you, there is also an 8-musician maximum allowing you to jam with your friends if you feel like it.

Jam with the Band most definitely has quite a few interesting features for the money you pay for it, with three main modes offering what can be considered a full musical experience. It has more instruments than fellow console titles and is generally better experience than flash-based music games like DJ Sheepwolf. The studio part of the software is also very impressive for a DS game. The presentation is lacking a little and the difficulty can become simply unmanageable, but this can be overlooked and the game can be thoroughly enjoyed since it is worth the money.