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JAM Live Music Arcade

Score: 75%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Zivix
Developer: Zivix
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Rhythm/ Editor/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

JAM Live Music Arcade is all about creating music from loops and sound samples. If you know what a music sequencer is, think of it as a music sequencer for your Xbox 360, but one that has a predefined set of samples and loops for each given song.

The interface which serves as your canvas for creating your musical masterpieces looks somewhat like other music games, with five color-coded groups of five notes each across the bottom of the screen. These groups have labels which depend on the song (and hence the groups of loops and samples) you're currently using, but they are typically things such as Drums, Bass, Keyboard, Melody, Rhythm, FX and the like. The groups light up when selected, allowing you to know what groups you have active and playing sounds on beat rewards you with a small firework-like spray of musical notes on the screen, which indicates that you are getting an on-beat bonus. Meanwhile, there is a musical visualizer (called a Venue) that keeps the screen interesting in the background and reacts to the sounds you're layin' down. Some of these are nice looking and high-resolution, while others are much more simplistic-looking. This may have been an intended style, but I prefer the smoother looking backgrounds (Venues), personally.

Of course, this being a music game, the graphics take a back seat to the songs. Most of the music in JAM Live Music Arcade is by little-known artists (which could also be read as, "up-and-coming artists", I suppose), but a few songs are by artists that are more widely known. Of the music that comes packed with the game, the artists I readily recognized included Filter, Owl City, Modest Mouse, Fatboy Slim, Fall Out Boy and Bran Van 3000. There are 32 songs covering everything from Rock and Pop to Techno and Hip Hop. Note, however, that you're not going to take any of these songs and mix the original radio or album mix from them. These are custom versions of the songs made specifically for JAM Live Music Arcade. However, the artists are the artists, so it's not necessarily a bad thing. The main thing to realize is that the sound loops are a little bit limited when it comes to lyrics; not a problem with most techno, but not good for ballads. For example, Owl City's Fireflies is there, but you only have the first verse and the chorus to play with. You can make something that sounds quite nice, but you can't reproduce the whole song.

JAM Live Music Arcade also supports downloadable content, so there could be more music made available in the future. As for now, however, there is no DLC to be had.


Gameplay:

JAM Live Music Arcade is an interesting game. For anyone familiar with JamParty: Be the Music on the PC (reviewed earlier, see link below), the freestyle music-composition play is much the same as in that game, but JAM Live Music Arcade doesn't support exporting music, so you can't take your newly created music with you, well, unless you hook up something to your 360 and record the audio manually. However, your creations made in JAM Live Music Arcade can be recorded in the game and can then be played in the Arcade Mode, allowing you to challenge friends, foes and family to try to do what you just did. That's pretty cool.

When you first start playing JAM Live Music Arcade, however, you will only have access to Freestyle Mode. You will have to complete all of the Challenges in the Freestyle Mode before you can open up the Arcade Mode. These challenges serve as a tutorial, walking you through the various types of actions you can do, explaining the interface and testing your timing a bit before unleashing the really complex stuff on you.

Once you've completed all of the Challenges in Freestyle Mode, you will have access to Arcade Mode. I found Arcade Mode to be quite interesting... and more difficult than it looks. Basically, it works as a rhythm game, similar to a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game. Instead of notes coming down a path to the bottom of your screen, however, these go upwards and there is a line near the top of the screen that indicates the perfect time to make the indicated action.


Difficulty:

I'm not going to lie; JAM Live Music Arcade can be difficult to play - especially on the more difficult songs. Unlike the other rhythm games that require you do two things - change your fingering and then strum at the right time - JAM Live Music Arcade requires you do four things: change your fingering to the appropriate banks that are about to be played, strum up to select the indicated banks, then change your fingering to match the notes to be played on those banks and - at the correct time - strum down to activate those notes. This can get quite tricky when changes are too close together or are simply all over the place.

In addition to the original arcade mix of any given song, players can record their own mix, which can then be played in the Arcade Mode, as well. The difficult of playing these mixes is primarily driven by the complexity that was used in the creation of the mix. Even an amateur gamer can record a mix that is very difficult to play. In fact, the less skilled (and, hence, the less on-beat and logical) a mix is, the more difficult it will be to reproduce the performance. This does a good job of leveling the playing field, I suppose.


Game Mechanics:

I definitely enjoyed playing JAM Live Music Arcade, but a lot of the difficulty in the game comes from the awkwardness of using a guitar controller to control what is, essentially, a sequencer. I think this game would be a lot easier to play if it had a sequencer-like controller. Specifically, the use of the strum bar for two completely different things can lead to mistakes during a performance. Most often, I find that I will intend to activate the selected loops and play them, but rather than strumming down to do so, I accidentally strum upward, selecting different instruments instead of playing the selected loops.

I had wanted to try JAM Live Music Arcade with my Rock Band 3 Keyboard Controller, but since the game depends on up-strums and down-strums for different actions, the keyboard isn't an option here.

If you want to create some music you can take with you and listen to later, this isn't going to work for you; you should probably check out the PC version, JamParty: Be the Music. As a music / rhythm game to play around with, however, JAM Live Music Arcade is fun, but has a smaller track list than most music games out there. Then again, it is a LIVE Arcade title, not a full-sized game, and it's priced accordingly. There, supposedly, will be DLC music in the future, but as of this writing, there's nothing available, so I won't consider that in this review. If you're like loops and have guitars from music games laying around waiting for something to do, JAM Live Music Arcade could be worth the purchase. It's not multiplayer, so it's not going to be much of a party game, like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, but it can be fun to play on your own or challenging another player to reproduce your performance.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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