Have you ever wanted to play guitar but have never had the time to learn? Maybe you're out camping, friends are sitting around the bonfire and you're thinking that right about now would be the perfect time to bring that old guitar out and bust some tunes... except for that you can't play.
Ubisoft have found an answer in the form of Jam Sessions, a guitar simulator out now for the Nintendo DS. Originally released in Japan under the name of "Sing & Play Guitar M-06" developed by Plato, thankfully Ubisoft have made the translation and released it to the rest of the world.
Now if you've never played a guitar before or have tried and had problems with chords, you're going to love Jam Sessions. It's like being given the skills to play some of the most loved songs of all time. Jam Sessions comes with songs from bands like Coldplay, Bob Dylan, Beck, Nirvana, Avril Lavigne, and Johnny Cash to name a few. The first few songs you play even come with demo versions which Jam Sessions will show you how to play. In song mode, the top screen shows you the notes and timing as well as lyrics while the bottom screen has you strumming along a bar on the screen as if you were using a pick on a guitar string.
It's actually a lot of fun and if you're already learning guitar, it'll give you some of the basic chords to play some of those favourite songs. But if you're in the mood for making your own songs, simply hit the Free Play mode and you'll be free to make your own music.
Controlling your chords is done by way of either the directional pad if you're right-handed or the buttons if you're left. On the top screen, you'll always see a representation of what notes are being triggered by the various buttons. For instance, in playing Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", hitting either the left or the Y button will give me an E minor chord. Chords are arranged on a directional palette. Because of this, Jam Sessions includes a palette editor that allows you to add any chord you want to your own custom palette to compose your very own songs out of the notes you think work.
Holding the shoulder buttons will give you a different palette to play with. In the end, you'll find that you'll have around 18 chords to play with at any given time without needing to shift to another set of chords. This gives you plenty of notes to make any song you can think of.
While Jam Sessions simulates an acoustic guitar, Ubisoft have also included some cool features to let you rock it out as much as you can. By hitting the options panel, you can check out effects like flanger, distortion, tremolo, chorus and others. All of these effects are customisable too. There's a whole variety of features too including a customisable look to almost every part of the Jam Sessions interface including what the bar your stylus plays over looks like as well as the ability to record your own creations.
Jam Sessions is quite a fun game. In fact we're not actually sure if you can call it a game. It's a guitar simulator and if you're looking at it thinking that it sounds like Guitar Hero for the DS, think again. Jam Sessions lets you play guitar, not a Guitar Hero game, and it's been suggested that you plug it into an amplifier to illustrate that point.
So the next time you're sitting around at a friends house and you're not sure what to do, stick Jam Sessions into a DS and play along with your friends. It's not antisocial if you're getting everyone in on the singing too.
Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark