Review: JAM Live Music Arcade
Looking at JAM Live Music Arcade as a tool in which you can remix 32 different songs, I think JAM has something going for it. While there’s only about four or five recognizable ones on the list the selection provides a good mixture of genres. It’s the execution in the game’s Jam mode that falls short and a tacked on Arcade mode doesn’t help to make the game’s case as something worth your money.
It should be noted that you can play with either a controller or one of your guitar controllers. Playing with a DualShock works but the guitar controller makes things a lot easier to control.
Split into two separate modes (Jam and Arcade) the game allows you to either focus on remixing songs or just playing songs in a similar way to how games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band work. Jam mode shows a lot of potential and actually isn’t half bad. Each song presents you with a set of five ‘bank’s. (Guitar, Drums, Vocals, FX, etc.) You can select one or multiple banks by strumming up and then you can select from five tracks within the banks by strumming down. Your selected tracks will play continuously until you stop them or, if the tracks are ‘free form’ (shaped like a diamond), they’ll play once and stop. From there you’ll introduce different tracks across the different banks to create a somewhat unique version of the song. Later songs will include multiple ‘bank sets’. A bank set is essentially different sections of the song. One might be dedicated to a specific verse while another is usually offering lyrics specifically from the chorus. Ultimately switching bank sets offers even more tracks to play with and manipulate in whichever way you choose. All the while you can record these mixes and play them back at a later time.
That’s where the problems begin to show up. First off Jam mode scores you on your mix and gives you a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal. This seems rather pointless due to the fact that the mixing portion of JAM isn’t really much of a game. It’s a music editing tool that is, if nothing else, really neat. This is made even more pointless because it’s way too easy to actually earn medals. You’re scored on timing and nothing else. So, as you’ll see in the video below, you can switch between two track selections for about a minute and a half and easily get the Gold medal as long as your timing is on beat. You can create a terrible sounding mix that gets you a Gold medal because you were on beat the entire time. You can certainly ignore this and just focus on creating a solid mix but the fact that you’re being scored on something like this just seems totally out of place. Lastly there’s no way to actually share your mixes with people. With something like this you would think that you’d be able to upload your creations to let other people listen to what you created.
Despite its issues Jam mode is enjoyable for what it is. It could be much better but it’s a neat idea and those who are really into remixing songs can probably get a lot of enjoyment from it. Arcade mode on the other hand feels completely unnecessary. Arcade is unlocked after completing all of the tutorial challenges in Jam mode and allows for players to play a Guitar Hero/Rock Band style game. However the difference is that instead of just playing notes as they scroll down the screen you’ll also need to switch banks, bank sets and pay attention to what tracks you need to play. Even in slower paced songs this is simply too complicated to keep track of without getting frustrated. In faster paced songs you have just a few seconds to switch to the correct bank set, activate to the correct banks, and then play the correct tracks. It’s too much and just not fun. Despite how tired some might say the music genre of gaming is I still have fun playing songs from time to time in Rock Band. This however made me want to never play Arcade mode again. It feels like little effort was even put into Arcade mode just so that they could have something resembling a game.
JAM Live Music Arcade provides a neat tool to remix songs in whatever way you’d like. The lack of more recognizable music and limitations in the way that you can share these remixes just serve to hold it back though. Adding in Arcade mode just makes it feel like JAM is trying to be two things at once when it fails to succeed in being great at either of them. DLC might bring better songs to mix in the future but at this moment I can’t begin to recommend this to anyone other than Owl City superfans.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Remixing songs
- Saving mixes
- Funky Town support!
What I Dislike:
- No way to share mixes with people online
- Scoring in Jam mode is unnecessary
- Only a handful of songs you'll recognize
- Arcade mode