Review: Hannah Montana: Music Jam

If you are looking for an alternative to the sold-out Hannah Montana concert series, the new video game "Hannah Montana: Music Jam" may be just the ticket you need.

Hannah Montana: Music Jam, a game created exclusively for the Nintendo DS, lets you assume the identity of Hannah in an adventure where she learns to play musical instruments. The game also acts as a rock-band simulator where you and your friends can jam together to compose music, and even create your own Hannah Montana music videos.

The game offers two modes of play: Adventure and Creative Play. In both, you practice music and create your own music videos. The adventure takes place in the world of Disney's Hannah Montana television series. You become Miley Stewart, the high-school girl who is the secret identity behind the pop star Hannah Montana. Only Miley's family and close friends know about her double life.

Balancing Fame and Friends

The story line revolves around Miley trying to balance fame and friends. As Hannah, her fame is being challenged by Savannah Star, an upcoming rock star who can play her own instruments. The two go head-to-head in a contest to win the Music Jam Online Award.

To keep up with Savannah, Hannah decides to learn to play all the instruments she will use in the music videos she must submit for the competition. Learning to play lead, rhythm, and bass guitars, as well as the drums, become minigames within the adventure. Likewise, you will put together music videos using the backdrops, lights, dance moves, clothing, and songs that you earn during the adventure. While talking to others and completing a series of routine fetch-it tasks moves the story along, the adventure is inventive because of the embedded minigames.

The three learn-to-play guitar minigames combine the popular Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) genre with the rhythm mechanics of games like Elite Beat Agents to produce unique play. For example, to play the rhythm guitar, the dual screens show the fret board of the guitar body. An image of the DS control pad floats down the fret board toward the body of the guitar and when it passes across two arrows, you must strum the virtual strings of the guitar with your stylus. One of the four sides of the control pad will be highlighted, and as you strum, you also push the corresponding side on the DS control pad.

In addition to the music games, there are seven other games, most of which use the stylus or your voice. You control Hannah as she ice skates by tracing shapes on the screen, and you play a "Pong"-type game by singing into the DS microphone to control the moving paddle on the bottom of the screen. You also have plenty of opportunities to dress Hannah in pop-princess outfits.

In the Creative Play mode, you can compose songs by laying down four musical tracks for rhythm, lead, and bass guitars, as well as drums. The software combines your tracks to produce a song. Innovative programming provides guitar chords that sound good together, so that the composing is simple enough for even novice musicians. In addition to composing, the game also gives you access to a music video studio to create your own video using either your own music or the music of Hannah Montana.

Even better is the ability to jam with others who own the game. Up to four friends can play together, each using their DS as an instrument; and their jam session can be saved as a song. That song can be used to create a music video featuring backgrounds found in the adventure game. If you have a Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, you will be able to upload your video to the internet and explore the videos others have created.

For Hannah Montana fans, this software is a must. And it's a good warm-up act to this holiday's other hot music video games: Guitar Hero III and Rock Band.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Best for ages 8-12
From Disney Interactive,, $30, Nintendo DS.

Jinny Gudmundsen is the kid-tech columnist for Gannett News Service and USA, and is also the editor of Computing with Kids Ezine.