Review: JAM Live Music Arcade Hits a Bad Note (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)

Mixing tunes is innovative, but a dreadful Arcade Mode and lack of sharing with your friends keeps this rock show short.

Trying to invigorate a game genre that’s gone to its point of extent is a tricky move.  On the one hand, you create a worthwhile game experience that’s bound to attract some kind of audience.  On the other, it’s not always guaranteed to work.  With that, we have Zivix’s JAM Live Music Arcade, a game that takes an assortment of rock tunes and lets you mix them however you please, provided you’re ready to switch between various instrument tracks.  At first, it definitely shows signs of innovations, but it’s when you’re trying to go to the next level with the game that it really shows how flawed a rock experience it is.

While the song list featured in the game isn’t loaded with too many familiar names, there’s more than enough alternative diversity here to garner your attention at first.  We’re talking songs by Fall Out Boy (“Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down”), Fatboy Slim (“Machines Can Do the Work”), and others by the likes of Owl City, DaCav5, Modest Mouse and more.  Unfortunately, not a lot of these are recognizable, though some will grow on you.

However, if you’re expecting an easy-to-follow interface like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, you’re in for some adjustment.  The game features a set-up where you move across five different instruments, each one with their own track fields to follow.  Switching back and forth can get tiresome, compared to just staying in one position for a song, but there are times you can really work your magic in the game.

This comes with the Jam mode.  Here, you’ll take any of the songs and drop in and out elements and mixes however you please, thus creating your own little ditty in the process.  You can either use a regular controller to complete this, or, in traditional music/rhythm fashion, hook up your plastic guitar and let your fingers do the work.  Both control methods operate decently in this mode, and you can really cook up some fun stuff here.