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Hannah Montana: Music Jam Package Art
Gorilla Games
Disney Interactive

Hannah Montana: Music Jam

Judging by the amount of fan fervor and eminently resalable concert tickets, Disney's Hannah Montana has a strong fan base. Coinciding with her recent concert tour is the release of her second Nintendo DS game, Hannah Montana: Music Jam. Developer Gorilla Games packed the cartridge full of content, but at the forefront is the title's deep instrumental rhythm game.


Realizing the limitations of the DS hardware, the developers shunned attempts at photo-realism in all but a select few cases. For the majority of the action, the game features cartoonish portraits on the lower screen with 3D environments on the top. The lower screen is used both as an inventory screen and heads-up display, and the tasks that Hannah Montana and her alter ego, Miley Stewart, have to do are posted down below, along with item inventory and other menus.

The top screen is where the majority of the action takes place, as Miley/Hannah and her friends and relatives are all given fully 3D character models, although the action is zoomed out a little to avoid showing the blemishes of some of the rougher polygons. The game is reminiscent of SCUMM-based adventure titles, where the main character goes between different locales on errands and quests.


Each area is accompanied by an instrumental Hannah Montana song, as are several of the mini-games contained within. The rhythm games, in particular, feature the music, but how well they sound in part is determined by the player. On the whole, there isn't an incredible amount of real audio clips used in-game, but this was probably a decision to save cartridge space.


In Adventure Mode, Hannah Montana: Music Jam not only looks like a SCUMM game, but feels like one, too. The story plays out like an episode of the television series, with Miley's dad (played by her real-life dad, Billy Ray Cyrus) setting up appearances, interviews and video shoots for Hannah Montana, while Miley tries to lead her double life as a normal kid in the meantime. But with a new rival on the horizon, Hannah/Miley has even more to worry about than usual.

In addition to completing tasks for other characters, the adventure mode also features a wide variety of mini-games, some of which really click and others of which don't. The star of the stable is clearly the music-based rhythm games, which have Miley playing lead and rhythm guitar, bass, drums and singing on occasion. The guitar and bass games use both the touch screen and Control Pad in unison -- one of the more inventive uses of DS control -- while the drums can be played with either assigned buttons or the touch screen.

In the story mode, the mini-games allow players to play along with the selected Hannah Montana song, but each mode is also accessible in "Creative Mode," in which players can lay down original tracks. Since each guitar string can be plucked individually and used to play actual chords and notes, Hannah Montana actually outdoes Guitar Hero and Rock Band as a guitar simulator. The manual even suggests turning the DS sideways to more accurately emulate the instrument, although this can be a little disorienting when watching for the Control Pad prompts.

The DS microphone is even thrown in for Hannah Montana's voice training, and take it from a former music minor -- the DS actually makes an accurate pitch sampler. The voice game can also be turned to silent and played with the stylus for people on buses or embarrassed by their singing abilities.

Other mini-games include pizza making, ice skating and racing radio controlled cars. While these aren't as in-depth as the rhythm games, they can still be diverting at times. The photo shoot game, however, is a bit repetitive and overlong. While that makes the game just like a real photo shoot, it doesn't provide a great deal of fun. The video production game, which is the focus of the story mode, is also a little obtuse and hard to get the hang of; although, it's nice to be able to lay down instrumental and vocal tracks for the videos.


Up to four players can jam together with Hannah Montana: Music Jam, although everyone will need their own Game Card. Each player takes one instrument and jams together, and the one playing rhythm guitar can actually save the performance for later playback. In addition, players can upload their saved music videos with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection for anyone to see.


Several months ago, Disney made it a point to single out studios for development on Nintendo's systems, and the move has really paid off. Hannah Montana: Music Jam shows a lot of effort and polish, despite a couple of weak points. It's obvious that Gorilla Games put a lot into the rhythm game, and while this particular title might not be the best Christmas present for that thirty-year-old, unshaven gamer, anyone should be able to give this game to a kid who even remotely likes Hannah Montana with pride. And, hey, since Hannah Montana products often go for triple to ten times their actual cash value on eBay, it may even be a safe gift for the thirty-year-old.

final score 8.1/10

Staff Avatar Aaron Roberts
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