I missed out on the first Jam Sessions game for the DS – but given the near over-saturation of the music sim market, can you blame me? Answer: Yes, go right ahead.
You see, Jam Sessions wasn't like other music games in that it wasn't really a "game." It was a tool to let people make music even if they hadn't the foggiest idea how a real guitar works. Just so, its sequel isn't out to compete with Guitar Hero or that Hannah Montana spin-off game I remember playing last year. Jam Sessions 2 just wants to be about music, not about "winning" or "losing" as the name "game" implies.
What Is It? Jam Sessions 2 is a guitar simulator for the DS featuring six strings instead of the original one on the touch screen to manipulate with the stylus or your finger while changing chords or effects with the D-pad and face buttons. There are 16 licensed songs that you play to unlock effects and backing music to use in the studio mode where you create original songs.
What We Saw I played through I Fought the Law and messed around a little with the music studio at Ubisoft's San Francisco offices.
How Far Along Is It? The game is due out later this month.
What Needs Improvement? Lack of Direction: Because Jam Sessions 2 doesn't have a story mode or definite goals that players are supposed to work toward, the more game-minded player might not know what to do with themselves once they've played all the licensed songs. Tutorials will guide you through the music-making process only so far. After that, if some kind of inspiration doesn't kick in, Jam Sessions 2 won't have a whole lot for you.
Can Has More Songs? I realise the DS isn't made for storing four dozen full-length rock ballads – but I wish there were more than 16 songs.
What Should Stay The Same? Doesn't Punish You For Missing Notes: There is pretty much nothing you can do during a song to "fail out" or even make the music sound bad. Believe me, I tried. Not only does the game not punish you for missed notes with a jarring sound like certain other music games, it also doesn't dock any points from your total score.
Distorting Sounds: There's a DSI-friendly mode where you can distort notes in the music studio. You accomplish this by turning on the camera and then either moving the DS around or waving your hand in front of it to change the pixel-count the camera picks up. I'm glad that the mode exists and I'm even more glad I won't have to be flailing around on an aeroplane like an idiot trying to bend a note.
Not Difficult to Pick Up: Jam Sessions 2 can get pretty technical in the music studio mode, but it's not at all a complicated game to pick up. Music-minded gamers – even the ones who don't play guitar in real life – won't have trouble picking the game up and either drilling way down into the note editing or just sitting back to play Barracuda.
Final Thoughts The developer is struggling to satisfy two different camps that emerged around the first game. On one side, there's the technical type of gamer who wants a pure guitar simulations and to hell with points and scoring and stuff. On the other side, there's the type of gamer who expects some kind of game-y element to their music games whether it be a tour mode or an endless set list challenge. I don't know that Jam Sessions 2 completely satisfies one or the other, but it certainly does build on what the first game created. What more could you want from a sequel to a game that you liked?