Published on June 7th, 2012 | by nightskyre0
JAM Live Music Arcade – A Review
Review by: Andrew Smith
Publishers may have largely closed the door on music based games but some development houses are holding on to their idealized version of beatmatch gameplay. Zivix LLC is a music game developer out of Minneapolis who have brought to us a number of excellent games within the music game genre. Will their latest installment, JAM Live Music Arcade, keep up the beat, or is it time to turn the music off?
JAM Live Music Arcade is a single player jam game for PSN and XBLA that features two distinct play modes – Jam mode and Arcade mode. In both of these modes, the HUD contains 5 instruments, each with 5 tracks of differently mixed audio loops. For the more complicated songs, there are even up to 3 track banksets that can alternate this collection of instruments and recorded loops. At its most complicated, a single song can feature 75 individual audio loops.
The core gameplay mechanic focuses around using a Guitar Hero or Rock Band controller to control the five different instrument tracks. To “activate” an instrument you hold a fret button (or combination of buttons, or no buttons at all) and strum up. Within the set of activated instruments, you now press fret buttons and strum down to turn on those actual audio tracks. There is a controller driven input scheme, but I could barely play the game if I wasn’t using a guitar.
In Jam mode, the loops are up to you – You can activate and deactivate tracks on your own accord to create a sound all your own. JAM Live Music Arcade features licensed tracks from a number of artists like Modest Mouse and Fatboy Slim, and the activation of these tracks in Jam Mode builds the music we’re familiar with, but remixed to your pleasure.
JAM Live Music Arcade moves you through a series of tutorial challenges in Jam mode before it opens Arcade Mode. Arcade Mode uses all the music control methods learned in Jam, but with a more traditional beatmatch style gameplay. Unlike games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, you are not travelling down the note highway to get the next note to play, but rather the notes rise to meet your synchonization line – more like Dance Dance Revolution.
JAM Live Music Arcade is not for the faint of heart. If you struggle with Guitar Hero on easy, this game is not for you. The risk/reward thresholds are higher – the game is clearly more difficult than most beatmatch games before it, but that makes the reward greater when the game “clicks”.
There is a lot to like in JAM Live Music Arcade. The two different gameplay styles clearly cater to two different types of gamer: the creative and the achiever. I am more of an achiever but I can definitely appreciate the creative aspect. The team at Zivix worked very hard to put a dynamic mixing tool in the hands of a gamer through an approachable controller.
Greatly simplified music mixing tools can still be overwhelming to the casual user. Even tools like the Rock Band Network or GarageBand, which are designed for the consumer in mind, can be overwhelming. JAM Live Music Arcade does its best to bridge the gap between the casual and the hardcore.
It is in this bridging that the game’s fault lies. My fear is that it is a little bit too complicated for the casual. If you played DJ Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero / Rock Band, etc and you didn’t find it enough of a challenge, this game is for you. Similarly, if you played through the beatmatch games we’ve seen before and you wanted more creative control, you may want to check out JAM Live Music Arcade.
JAM Live Music Arcade is fun, for sure, but the complicated gameplay gets in the way of itself a little bit. For example, the jewels for matching are a little small to rapidly see and switch your fingers appropriately, but the size is rendered necessary because of the sheer amount of input on the screen. Every iteration of the gameplay has the same number of inputs – If there were easier modes with only three or four instruments and tracks, that would have been a huge plus.
I had fun with JAM Live Music Arcade, I just don’t know how often I will go back, as the game has enough in it that you need to be really familiar with it to be successful.
It will remain on my console, but to scratch an itch, not to drive me to play.
The volume isn’t off yet in the music game industry, but JAM Live Music Arcade isn’t quite the “killer app” that cranks it back up to 11.
Check out our interview with the developers of Jam Live Music Arcade!
Hardcore Christian Gamer was provided with a review copy of JAM Live Music Arcade