I doubt many of you played Hannah Montana: Music Jam on DS and if you did, you probably wouldn’t admit to it here. But if you had, you would recognise the DS version of Ultimate Band right away because it’s pretty much the same game – sans Hannah Montana.
Your guitar/bass fills up both screens of the DS and notes appear as little icons that fall down along the strings from the top screen to the touch screen. When they get there, you have to tap them while pressing the D-pad button specified in the icon. This setup comes with a lefty variation that uses the X, Y, A and B buttons on the right. The drums are a little different this time around – they’ve been tilted on the screen so there’s more surface area for you to tap your stylus.
The Rhythm Play game mode allows you to try out all the instruments as you take your band across the city of Rockopolis (insert lol here), playing different venues to earn fans and work your way up to larger venues. There’s a multiplayer mode that lets you jam head-to-head or cooperatively with other DS owners that actually bring themselves to buy this game. But by playing rhythm, you unlock backbeat loops to use in the recording studio mode, which was the star of the Hannah Montana game. These looped drum beats are like those old keyboard toys we had when we were kids – start up the back beat and then randomly press the other buttons and somehow it all comes out sounding like music. For the more hardcore, you can skip the backbeats and arrange your own music – and for the utterly clueless, you can actually sort loops by genre (punk, pop, rock, etc.) if you have no idea how to get going.
All of this impressed me only because Hannah Montana was nowhere to be found. Even the cover band that recorded the 15 songs for the DS version didn’t make use of the mini megastar’s vocals; and none of the skinny avatar choices resembled her.
Disney is infamous for whoring out a particular franchise to the point where you want to claw your eyes out of your skull every time another video game/toy/Halloween costume appears. This prevents decent games like Hannah Montana: Music Jam or Kim Possible from getting recognition – because it’s Hannah Montana and most gamers wouldn’t be caught dead having anything to do with her (Kim Possible is negotiable).
Well, it looks like they’ve sort of learned their lesson with Ultimate Band. The game comes out mid-November.
Now if only I could pry myself away from Guitar Hero: On Tour…