JAM is a music game that tries its absolute best to avoid doing anything similar to other music games in the genre. As a result its become very much a purists music game but also one that if it takes you, you’ll be spending a lot of time playing.
JAM is made for the Rock Band / Guitar Hero guitar peripheral in mind. You have five coloured notes on the guitar (you can also use a PS3 controller too). On screen you those five coloured notes transposed into five different instrument boxes – inside which the five colours again are assigned to different loops or riffs. By strumming the guitar or pressing up on the D-Pad with the instrument buttons pressed you turn these instruments on for you to the then strum down again to set off individual riffs and loops in time with the beat. As the loops are on, you’ll see them spin around in their own time signature. To start with everything runs for say 4, 8 or 16 bars of music. Later on as more songs are unlocked you’ll get one hit moves that only take up one bar while everything continues on, some aren’t for repeated riffing, some are but take half the time. JAM has a steep learning curve if you are not musically minded.
To help aid this the songs, most of which are from lesser known artists but actually are all pretty much spectacular, are divided into groups which you unlock in a DJ mode where you can remix the songs anyway you want as you get used to the controls. Do that enough and you’ll unlock the Arcade mode where the commands fly up the screen and you’ve got to perfect each change as the remix requires. Each wrong move means your hit marks move closer to the bottom of screen, eventually meaning game over when it hits where the notes arrive at the bottom of the screen. Arcade mode is very hard with a PS3 controller and still hard with a guitar controller. Do not expect 100%’s or gold medals first time out.
From a musician stand point, the DJ remixing stuff is actually quite ingenious. All the riffs and one shot effects can really make a decent remix and later on in the game you switch between banksets which can give you up to 75 samples for those songs to mess with. You can do an awful lot with that if you’ve the imagination and patience to get it right. Once you’ve made a track you can save it to listen back to or you can then send it to a friend as an Arcade JAM so they can try and copy your moves for points.
~Genuinely hard to master
~Some unique game mechanics for remixing tracks as you go
~New use for your guitar controllers
~Steep learning curve will put some off
JAM goes out of its way to be different and that essentially makes it a unique purchase for music genre fans looking for something to sink their teeth into. What it also does is make it difficult to get into for the more casual audience. There’s a lot of fun to be had here – you just have to have the patience to scratch beneath the surface.