Some developers haven’t come to terms yet with the fact that music games have passed their prime. The days of Guitar Hero are long gone, but still some companies insist on continuing to push them out. Nowadays when I see a new music game being advertised my reaction is generally to scoff. JAM Live Music Arcade, however, takes the path that gamers have wanted developers to go down.
The objective of nailing the right notes at the right moment isn’t the focus here. JAM Live Music Arcade gives a ton of autonomy in choosing what role you want to play; from being the DJ to guitarist, singer, or drummer – and those aren’t even the only options. Instead, you JAM out with improvisation being the main focus of the game instead of all the attention being centered on having a high score.
JAM has a real-time live music sandbox where gamers and music enthusiasts can create their own music. You do this by beginning with one of the songs featured in the game (there are over 30, and are from artists like Fall Out Boy, Modest Mouse, and Rise Against – but there’s also a plethora of songs from lesser known indie bands). You can play with just about everything about the songs, twisting it from the bottom up. The guitar, bass, drums, synths and vocals can all be remixed in a number of ways. Every song has somewhere between 25 and 75 different loops and one-shots, all of which you can mash up to create your own mix.
There’s also a more traditional arcade mode for those who are still enamored with the ways of games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but it can only be unlocked after all the challenges were completed. And this arcade mode is where the first difficulties arose. This is definitely a game where having a guitar controller is strongly recommended, or at least a game pad. It’s playable without one, but it’s a lot harder to get into. There’s a lot of toggling that has to be done. Also, if you miss a note the bars drop down on the screen which totally break your concentration in a game that’s difficult enough without a guitar controller.
A point system is in place for how closely you activate the tracks in time with the beat (there’s a metronome to assist), but that’s the extent of it. You get receive medals for these points, which show how you rank as far as how well the song was mixed. They don’t seem to really serve much of a purpose in the game, however, because you could earn the highest medal available by just playing continuously. The background visuals are lackluster and don’t really inspire you to get into the game, and at times the colors and animations made it difficult to see what keys were supposed to be pressed.
One cool feature, however, is that in challenge mode you can use the “back” button to start recording a mix. Pressing “back” again stops the recording, letting you save it to listen to and also share. Your recording can also be put into the arcade mode section – a very sweet addition.
Despite the fact that the game only has two modes (challenge and arcade) and 32 songs, you get some good bang for your buck for only $9.99 (or 800 Microsoft points) – especially considering how open the creative boundaries are. There are possibly DLCs to come in the future, along with leaderboards, which makes JAM Live Music Arcade worth the time with the right equipment.
Final Score: 3/5