Needs more cowbell. LOTS more cowbell.
Take a great rhythm-action game like Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Then, take away almost all the fun and challenge of actual gameplay. What’s left is more of an exploratory “experience,” which basically sums up the entirety of JamParty.
Starting out with an entirely pompous introduction (with such self-important lines like “Music is universal!” and “Music is all around us!”), JamParty is not much more than a chance to use your guitar controller to do something other than the aforementioned popular rhythm games. Each song in the game is made up of five different parts. It’s up to you to control when each part starts and stops, fades in and out, and make your own jam.
While this sounds kind of fun in theory, in practice it’s quite flawed. You can use a mouse and keyboard to control each part’s activation, which is a much better idea than the main gimmick. Using a five-button guitar controller, you strum “up” while pressing one of the colored buttons to highlight an instrument. Then, press one of the five buttons to pick which of the five tracks that instrument can play. Finally, strum downwards to activate it. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s quite confusing.
Some of the more advanced songs have multiple sound banks, meaning different sections you can play. These are selected by pressing a colored fret button and pressing on the whammy bar. Again, not terribly intuitive, and more frustration than it’s worth.
Of course, this would all be worth it if the songs were interesting – which they really aren’t. Mostly consisting of trance, R&B and soft rock, they aren’t so much pieces but rather “loops.” Essentially, a loop is a very short section of music, consisting of a few bars that repeat. Most loops in JamParty are about eight bars long. Imagine this for three straight minutes – it gets boring – and you get the idea of how it feels to play the game.
Except there isn’t really a game to play. Most of the game’s music is locked, and points earned during jams unlock them. The game never really tells you how to earn any points – nor does it even tell you how many you earned during a song until you quit to the main menu and points magically appear in your total. However, you don’t even have to do anything. After selecting your song, performance length and venue, once you activate a track, you can literally walk away and win.
Once you’re actually in a jam, things aren’t so bad. The graphics are pretty detailed (with lots of options depending upon how powerful your computer is), very colorful and cheerful. When you alter a track, the game zooms in on the instrument you’re changing, giving the jam a bit of an interactive experience. And if you mixed together a jam you’re particularly proud of, you are able to share it with your friends using your preferred social network like Facebook or Twitter. If you wish, there are many free songs available for download from the game’s website to add to the experience.
But this goodwill is brought down by some game-breaking bugs. Of particular importance is JamParty crashed just because the cursor moved while the guitar controller was plugged in. It’s very frustrating to be almost finished a jam, and everything is lost because your table got bumped.
JamParty isn’t so much a game as an experience, and not in a good way. It’s dull, the music is boring and the game is broken. Good looks and good intentions don’t make up for a half-baked product. Check out the many other options for music gaming; JamParty isn’t ready for open mic night.