I think it is safe to say that the “Rhythm Game” genre has officially said adieu as an over saturated venture for game companies to make a buck. Innovation in games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band has now been reduced to,”Let’s see what band we can lock up for this month’s DLC”. This leaves the genre in a stalemate and it has become difficult to see in the near future any games of the sort, that is going to give music games a boost to the top once more. Unfortunately, Jam Live Music Arcade, and its “Music Creation” genre masking what ostensibly is a derivative Rock Band/Guitar hero lovechild, is not going to change this state anytime soon.
Let me begin with saying that while I don’t play many rhythm games these days, I did enjoy the times I did play both Rock Band and Guitar Hero (and the many,many,MANY iterations of both games). Both RB and GH were able to bring that feeling of rocking out with songs that before, you had played with an instrument that was made out of the same stuff that kept you breathing. You were tasked with playing the notes on your one instrument, you racked up scores and stars (Scars?) and before you knew it, you were a rock god, and it felt damn good.
The developers at Zivix must also have these fond memories, but they clearly wanted to put their own stamp on the foundations and design philosophies that were laid before, embarrassing results. One of these ideas was to help you become a mix master and have control of all the instruments that were in a song. While this is seemingly a neat idea, the execution of it clashes with the flow of how a rhythm-based game should be. The result is a game that becomes much too complicated and therefore frustrating for its own good.
The basic premise is that you are the band, the whole band, nothing but the band so help you God. You have yourself an interface that features five instruments arranged in a row called a bankset. Each slot corresponds with a mixture of instruments ranging from guitars to synthesizer sounds to drums. Using a any guitar controller that you posses, you navigate each instrument and activate them by pressing the color/s of the bank/s that the particular note is associated with, and strum up. You complete the motion by waiting until the notes moving upwards to a specific line that goes horizontally across the screen, and strum down while pressing the required button colors on the controller. If what was just described sounds confusing, that is because it is. Often times, there are cases where you need to hold Green, Red and Blue buttons, Strum up, and then hold down Red, Yellow and Orange buttons and strum down to complete the note. This results in a level of complication that gets further aggravated when you fail a note. As you misstep,the bar that you need to hit your notes on sinks lower and lower until it is game over. And that is only the 1st bankset, as each song has a range of one to three banksets that you toggle by pressing a button and pressing down on the whammy bar. The reaction time that is required to even play this game consistently needs to be on a level of no one that I know, nor desire to be associated with. This game defines the term,”Steep Learning Curve” and due to the gaggle of commands required, you pay the price of a fail screen pop-up, usually within the first 30 seconds.
Any case for saying that practice makes perfect is dead on arrival. The problem is that there is no incentive to get better, as the game features a whopping two modes to play, and only one of them matters. The Arcade mode puts you through the 32 songs that are available, requiring you to earning a high enough score so that you can achieve either a bronze, silver and gold medal. However the bare minimum of bronze is what is required to progress through the stages, and after each song, it is probably all you are going to want to bear anyway. The other mode is freestyle-esque JAM mode, where you can pick a song and… try to… replicate and mess around with it…? The attitude of the game tries to convince you that one can remix, tweak and try to put their own spin on a popular song like “Funkytown”. And then you can share your “unique” experience with your friends! This false perception that your buddies will want to sit around and listen to your bastardized version of a song is a view that is not shared amongst most people in general. There is a bit of good news though. Depending on your tastes, you may actually find a few decent songs in here that range from electronica, to rock to pop and may encourage you to at least buy the song itself on Itunes
The worst part about Jam Live Music Arcade is that I actually “wanted” to like it. The idea of being able to remix and redo songs with your own flavor was a good one. I cannot however, recommend this game to really anyone. Other than a select few who want a rhythm game that will really test their finger positioning prowess as much as their patience for the price of ten dollars. The trifecta of slightly dated game play, half-hearted presentation and just all around bad mechanics is more than enough reason to steer clear of this one. They say, “You get what you pay for” and for $10, compared to $60 for either Rock Band or Guitar Hero, or any other game for that matter, that quote could not ring any more true.