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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game is designed to simulate playing the guitar, so gamers expecting music games will be disappointed. Younger gamers might get bored with the game's simple, no-frills interface and lack of characters, story, and traditional gameplay challenges. Older players with an ear for music should have fun teaching themselves to "play."
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What's it about?
JAM SESSIONS is not really a game but a portable guitar simulation that allows you to realistically re-create the experience of playing guitar along with your favorite tunes. Once you've mastered the basics, you can experiment in Free Play mode and record your ideas for posterity (you can transfer your creations off the DS using a line-in cable). You don't \"win\" anything by playing through a song accurately.
The interface is exceedingly simple: It's literally a guitar string stretched across the DS' lower screen with the stylus doubling as a plectrum for strumming. Up to eight musical chords (such as C, Am and G7) are mapped to the eight directions of the directional pad. By holding down one of the buttons and dragging the stylus across the string, you can strum a chord. Jam Sessions has a library of more than 100 chords you can map to the chord palette, and you can also assign effects such as Distortion, Chorus, and Flanger to the L and R buttons to apply on the fly.
Is it any good?
It's quite amazing how realistically Jam Sessions captures the mechanics of guitar playing. For example, longer stylus strokes create louder chords. Up- and down strokes sound different as they do in real life, and you can even do muted string effects (to re-create the cool wocka-wocka sounds in "Wild Thing," for example).
Jam Sessions would be more accessible if it had some sort of game mode. As it stands, it remains a rather idiosyncratic piece of software. It's also a shame that you can't record vocals via the DS microphone along with your guitar playing. However, Jam Sessions is still a useful tool for budding composers and serves as a great stepping stone towards learning to play a real guitar.
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