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Jam with the Band

Melody maker.

Karaoke seems an equally imprecise science, as the game attempts to gauge which type of song your voice is best suited to. Having screeched my way through We Are The Champions, I was told my caterwauling would serve me well as a pop singer, with Material Girl deemed my best chance of chart success. Paddy Power already has me as second favourite for this year's Christmas Number One - look out, Simon Cowell.

Once your sonic symphony is complete, you can upload it via Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection, whereupon Nintendo will evaluate its content and approve it as long as it's halfway decent and you've not included anything with naughty lyrics. While you're there you can select another 50 tunes to complement the same number on the cartridge. You're limited to a total of 100 songs, though, and once you've chosen there's no going back; if you want any more you'll have to buy another copy of the game.

If that seems unduly restrictive, it's hard to argue there's not a decent amount of content for the lone player, and there's certainly enjoyment to be had in, say, scoring over 90% on every instrument for each song. But after a while, it feels even more of a solitary pursuit than playing Guitar Hero on your own. At least there the more imaginative player can pretend they're playing a real instrument. Here it's impossible to escape the fact that you're pressing buttons to play a muzak version of a song you've heard a million times before, even if there is something curiously satisfying about watching an audience of rodents moshing to the Spanish guitar part of Fur Elise. And the only tangible reward for trying out all the different instruments is a bit of dull trivia about each, presumably gathered during a lazy afternoon browsing Wikipedia.

It's temping, then, to suggest that Jam with the Band isn't so much a title as an instruction. At risk of putting off 90 per cent of everyone reading this at a single stroke, I have to say the multiplayer component is not a million miles away from a DS version of Wii Music. You've got 60 instruments and 50 songs, a great many of which are shared between the two games, and ultimately both end up with a group of you bashing out a bad MIDI version of a familiar tune.

There's a neat gag when you sign the membership form as a piece of paper falls away to reveal you've just agreed to "be worked into the ground for the glory of Barbara's empire".

There are two key differences. One, if something goes wrong here you can't blame controller inaccuracy; and two, there's a greater sense of responsibility to the part you assume when you're jamming, as there's no room for freestyling. If your percussion section is out, then it can completely throw the rest of the band off. Hit a bum note in the melody and it can trigger a fit of giggles among the group.

This, believe it or not, is a very good thing. It's worth laying down 30 quid just for the chance to play the F-Zero Medley with a group of players. This time around, I didn't get the opportunity to relive one of the finest multiplayer moments I've ever had, but the original Daigasso once reduced me and three friends to tears of unstoppable laughter, as a bit of bad drumming sparked a hilariously off-key trumpet parp during the Mute City Theme.

Though it's clearly better played locally with friends and family - generously, the game supports up to eight band members from a single cartridge - there's an option to form a group online, as well as a free Wii Channel download so you can hear your best efforts through your telly rather than the DS' comparatively feeble speakers. It's worth noting, however, that this is less of an issue on the much beefier-sounding DSi XL.

Whether you're more likely to go solo or indulge in an epic multiplayer jam, you'll find Nintendo has packed enough in this oddly garish package to keep you occupied for a good while. In the continued absence of a third Ouendan game - and with Keiichi Yano and team busy with Lips DLC that's not likely to happen any time soon, more's the pity - Jam with the Band should fill the portable-rhythm-action-shaped hole in your life very nicely indeed.

8 / 10

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About the Author

Chris Schilling avatar

Chris Schilling

Contributor

Chris Schilling writes about video games for a living, and knows an awful lot about Pokémon. Ask him anything. (Though he may have to confer with his son.)

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