Ubisoft's portable sequel to 2007's Jam Sessions is more like Guitar Hero than actually playing guitar.
Jam Sessions came out on Nintendo DS in 2007, right before the modern rhythm game genre exploded with Rock Band and Guitar Hero III. The original Jam Sessions wasn't like those games; as a matter of fact, it wasn't so much a game as it was a nifty little tool that you could use to learn the basics of playing a guitar. They had familiar songs that you could play alongside of and mess around with, but it was primarily about making your own music. The major criticism was that it was rough around the edges, which was understandable for a pioneering game on the DS.
Unfortunately, the sophomore effort from Ubisoft and developer Plato is more of a lame rip-off of the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band games than anything that could teach you how to play guitar. While the creation aspect is still there, it isn't the focus anymore. The harebrained Songbook mode, the equivalent of a Career mode, forces you to play through songs to unlock a majority of the content for the creator.
The Songbook mode features a progression similar to the Hero and Rock Band series, but much simpler. At the start, a few songs are unlocked, and as you play through them, you unlock a few more, and so on and so forth. It's all very formulaic, and is not representative of how the song creator portion is set up.
Even worse, you have to suffer through the beginning of the Songbook mode to unlock the Song Creator. Using your own creations, generic clips and beats, and even clips from the real songs included, you can create your own song. This process is tough to comprehend at first, but soon you'll be laying down beats and strumming your own on top of them. All in all, it's a fun and accessible process. Still, your palette is severely limited unless you go through the Songbook mode.
Playing songs and making them would both be a lot easier if it was comfortable to play the game. Unfortunately, it isn't. You use your dominant hand to strum across the six slightly slanted strings on the screen while your other hand selects chords by pressing a direction on the D-pad or one of the face buttons. You can alter these chords by holding down the L or R button. After playing this setup, the somewhat awkward Guitar Hero DS guitar grip will appeal to you more and more as Jam Session 2's controls are hideously uncomfortable. I had to set my DS on a table most of the time so I could play it without my hand cramping up.
You can share your songs locally, which is cool, but like most DS games, if there was local single-card multiplayer, there'd be a greater possibility of the feature actually being used. You can also apparently use the DSi camera to affect things such as distortion; it's a relatively pointless feature.
Jam Sessions 2 isn't a terrible game, but it seems to be a huge step in the wrong direction for the series. The original's emphasis on making your own music now splits time with the lackluster Guitar Hero-esque Songbook mode, and you have to play through that mode in order to unlock most of the tools for the Song Creator. Unless you're crazy about games with decent song creators in them, you're better off leaving this game behind and picking up a more polished rhythm game.