Dec 10, 2007
We’re not supposed to be nodding our heads and tapping our feet whilst a cartridge of Hannah Montana: Music Jam is nestled in our DS. At the same time that we’re strumming guitars, playing slap bass, blasting out drum beats and wailing through blues solos; the vacant, dead-doll-eyes of Hannah Montana watch us from the game box’s cover, and her gleaming white-toothed open-mouthed smile appears to be emitting derisive laughter at our shame.
Never mind that creepy little girl. We’re perfecting our chord changes. Try to forget about the brain-liquefying minigame where you have to pose for pictures by tapping the same icons over and over for waaaaaaay too long.
Music Jam is a truly bizarre hybrid, a game with elements so disparate that there’s no way all of them could fully appeal to a single person. The story mode is terrible, but may appeal to young girls. The music creation mode is inspired and surprisingly complex, but may be a bit much for a kid to wrap their head around.
Not that the music creation is complicated, it’s just much deeper than anything else in the game, and allows for a decent range of rhythm and melody application. You record four instruments separately, essentially being your own complete band. First you lay down your rhythm guitar track (with handy metronome to keep beat), by strumming across the strings with your stylus. You can change chords by holding a direction on the d-pad, as well as toggle distortion, and wiggle the whammy bar. You can pluck strings individually. You could lose hours just messing with the rhythm guitar.
But then you’ve got bass, which you can both pick and slap (by tapping the strings). And then you’ve got lead guitar, where you can bend strings to create bluesy or glam-y solos. Finally, you’ve got drums, where the whole set is displayed on the touch screen, and you can tap away to create any beats you want. The only real flaw in this mode is with the drums - you can’t hope to make a complex beat with just the stylus, and tapping the screen with your fingers doesn’t register consistently. Luckily, you can use the DS buttons, although it takes some getting used to.
If you want to make your own music in a fun and intuitive way, and can somehow put your dignity on hold, you could get a lot of use from Hannah Montana. And don’t worry - you don’t ever have to play the story mode - you can just jump right to the music from the main menu.
Still, there is a whole lot of game other than the music creation, and unfortunately it drags down the overall score. There’s a music video editing mode, which is horrid and useless - why would anyone want to actually watch a low-poly character run through awkward looped animations, set to ultra-cheesy pop music with no vocals? It’s doubtful even little girls would like it.
The story mode is ridiculously slow-paced, and involves going to the mall, shopping, changing clothes, getting haircuts… yeah. There are non-music minigames thrown in, but they’re half-assed and the music minigames, which are semi-Guitar Hero-style, are fun, but there’s no way to access them outside the story.
Finally, there’s a multi-card 4-player music jam. The question is, how will you ever find three other people shameless enough to all get the game as well?