It’s been years since I last used my guitar controller. With the end of the Guitar Hero franchise, most assumed the music genre to be dead. However, the brave minds at Zivix think otherwise. With JAM Live Music Arcade, they promise not only a return, but to re-invent the genre. A bold promise they may have pulled off.
JAM Live Music Arcade changes up the music game formula. You control every aspect of a song — guitar, drums, vocals, piano, etc. — all at once. These instruments and effects are separated into five sections called banks, which are separated again by five different tracks. Switching between these sections during the song creates a beat and makes a remix.
The centerpiece of JAM Live is the JAM Mode. As the song plays, you can mix it up as you see fit. There is no “Game Over” to worry about; you simply play the song like you want, going on until you tell the game to stop.
I love this mode. With other music games, the franticness of keeping up with the notes could be very stressful. I was so focused on seeing the colors and keeping up that I never got a chance to hear the song in the background. To have a mode were a player can just relax and have fun with the music is genius. JAM Mode makes the song itself the focus, and allows you to do with it what you will. It was great to play a music game where I had time to just bob my head with the music. You can even record your creations for future use, or challenge it in arcade mode. The fact you can’t share your remixes online is unfortunate, but that’s the reality of dealing with people who have licensed songs who don’t like sharing their property.
Those who loved the challenge of arcade modes in other games need not worry. JAM Live Music Arcade might even be the most challenging music game yet. It’s no longer as simple as strumming the cord with the right color fret pressed down. Now you have to make sure the correct banks are activated as you do so.
There is definitely a challenge, but it might be too much.The game mechanics are doable with practice, but I can see people getting turned off by their complexity. In my case, I was stuck on the first song for a while before I got the hang of it. JAM’s new take on music gameplay is a bit intimidating, so I was shocked that there isn’t an easier mode to help players get into it. However, it was rewarding when it finally clicked.
JAM Live Music Arcade has 32 licensed tracks to chose from and play, including music from Owl City, Fatboy Slim, Chris Willis, Modest Mouse, and more. While these songs are good, it’s disappointing that the music lacks mainstream appeal, a huge selling point of games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Future DLC is confirmed, though, which will hopefully solve that problem.
Time will tell how JAM Live Music Arcade is received, but I’m rooting for it because there’s a lot to like about it. The JAM mode is blast to play and has a lot of potential. The arcade mode will require a lot of practice, even for Guitar Hero veterans, but is ultimately satisfying if you stick with it. JAM Live Music Arcade has the potential to be the phoenix the genre needs, but for now we have a really good start.
FINAL GRADE: B+