Sept 13, 2007
Your real guitar might be lurking at the back of your cupboard next to Mouse Trap, but your DS could soon rekindle those derailed dreams of becoming the next Hendrix. Great in theory - but by seemingly every single account, learning to play Jam Sessions requires as much discipline (and thumb-gymnastics) as the guitar does.
Playing a note is as simple as holding down a direction on the D-pad to select a chord, and then strumming a horizontal line on the touch screen to make a sound. Smoothly transitioning between chords takes a fair amount of practice, and hitting the minor notes regularly (which are located rather spitefully on the diagonals) is a little something we like to call impossible, until you've put in the hours.
But if it's difficult to learn and won't help you grasp anything useful about any real guitar (and, we can assure you, it won't), what on earth's the point of it? Well, there's the thing; Jam Sessions turns the art of learning an instrument upside-down. Whereas with a "real" instrument, the ham-fingered strummings of a beginner produces a sound not unlike a parrot falling into a lawnmower, Jam Sessions is finely tuned so that even the random flickering of a novice can produce something melodic, and this proves a great incentive to invest more time and effort in it. Jam Sessions might not help you learn how to play the guitar, but it'll go a long way to helping determine if you have the persistent character needed to learn the thing.
More's the pity, then, that as a package, Jam Sessions is emptier than the lyrics to a Fergie song. If you want to get technical, there are all kinds of metronomic gizmos to assist you on your way, but the number of chord sheets available to you are both few in number and scattershot in choice (random grab-bag: Amy Winehouse, Blind Melon, Jackson 5). A bigger oversight is a lack of any Guitar Hero-like feedback on how well you're playing. We know it's more rhythm toy than game, with the Free Play mode providing longevity, but having heard our friends butcher the dulcet tones of Janis Joplin, we wonder if it's sometimes better to just be told we suck.