Hannah Montana: Music Jam First Look

We kick out the jams in this surprisingly innovative DS game featuring the popular pop princess.

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Music games have hit the mainstream, and you need look no further than the upcoming Hannah Montana: Music Jam for proof. The upcoming handheld music game from Disney Interactive Studios and developer Gorilla Games may feature the fictional pop singer from the Disney Channel's popular television show on the cover, but the real star of the game is the various musical mechanics that will have you creating music with your friends, regardless of your musical experience.

Hannah prefers a mostly clean tone, with just a bit of chorus to give it some shimmer.
Hannah prefers a mostly clean tone, with just a bit of chorus to give it some shimmer.

It wouldn't be a Hannah Montana game without a nod to the star in the storyline, and in Music Jam, you play as either Miley Stewart or her alter ego, pop sensation Hannah Montana. As the game unfolds, you'll take on another rising pop singer, Savannah Star, in the music jam video contest. Add to that the problem of Miley's friends being stolen away by a popular new girl in the school and, well, it seems like a girl's work is never done.

To develop your musical skills in the game, Music Jam will let you actually play a variety of instruments--from lead or rhythm guitar to bass, and even drums. You'll use a slightly different approach for each instrument, but the common denominator is always the combination of the stylus and touch screen. When playing rhythm guitar to one of Hannah's songs, for example, you'll simply strum the strings of a virtual guitar by moving your stylus across them, changing chords as you go by pressing buttons on the directional pad.

That said, Music Jam is more than a simple rhythm game. While you'll be able to play along with Hannah's real-life tunes, the real creativity comes in free play mode, where not only can you play guitar, bass, or drums, you can also record your own compositions using the built-in recording tools. When recording a song, you simply start with a tempo track and then proceed to lay down chords with the rhythm guitar. You can choose from three preloaded chord sets assigned to the D pad, and you can switch between chord sets by pressing the face buttons. When putting together your rhythm guitar track, you can strum the strings normally, or play individual strings simply by touching them. You can also switch between acoustic and electric guitar on the fly with just a tap on the touch screen.

After you've built a base track to your liking, you can switch to bass guitar or drums. If you play bass, the notes you have to select from will be based on the chords you played with the rhythm guitar, so you don't have to worry about hitting the wrong note. As with the rhythm guitar, you'll have multiple methods to attack the string--from a normal plucked note by sweeping the stylus across the screen, to a "slapped" attack by tapping the string directly. Finally, there's lead guitar and drums to fill out the rest of your tune. The drum instrument features a full set on the lower screen, complete with cymbals, high hat, toms, snare, and kick drum. Because the DS's touch screen doesn't support two points of contact at once, it seems like you'll need to keep your drum lines fairly rudimentary; still, with some quick hands, you can get a pretty decent beat going.

Yep, there's shopping. You act like you're surprised.
Yep, there's shopping. You act like you're surprised.

Perhaps the coolest use of the technology in Music Jam is the ability to play and record with up to three of your friends wirelessly as you go. When recording, all four instruments will record to the host's DS, and that person will be able to share the final song with other players. The game will also include a music video creator, which will let you put together videos for songs, complete with backdrop shots and multiple angles to choose from (as well as the ability to share completed videos with your friends). In all, regardless of your fondness for the license in Music Jams, it's hard not to be impressed by its fun use of the Nintendo DS technology. It may be aimed at the tween set, but there's more to Music Jams than the license suggests. The game is due for release later this year.

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