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Um Jammer Lammy
Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: NaNaOn-Sha
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Rhythm/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
The graphics in this game are just as sharp as the ones in PaRappa, if not sharper. Yes, I know, I've already started comparing it to its predecessor, but in essence, Um Jammer Lammy is just an update to the original -- almost an 'expansion pack.' As such, the visuals are very similar, with the same 2D characters in a 3D world goofiness, and it looks just as cool now as it did then. There seem to be a few more moving 'sprites' on the screen now, but perhaps that's just my imagination. Nonetheless, Lammy's graphics quality is superb, in that crazy flat PaRappa way. Similarly, the sounds are superb. The voice acting is all top notch, with a lot of people reprising their roles from the first game (Katy Kat, Master Chop-Chop, and PaRappa himself all come to mind). The music itself is wonderful, with styles ranging from old-school Motown to bubblegum pop to the most 'heavy metal' that you'll get in a kid's videogame. Since Lammy plays the guitar instead of rapping, the music sounds even better because of the guitar you play. And, when you beat every level but the first, you gain a new add-on for your guitar (like a wah-wah or a harmonizer). This makes it possible to play even more groovy guitar. This game's aural qualities cannot be beaten.

If you've played PaRappa, you know exactly what to expect in Um Jammer. If you haven't, these two games play like a demented Simon Says, basically. The computer prints a string of button presses at the top of the screen, done at certain intervals, and you have to copy it when your turn comes. It sounds boring, but nothing could be further than the truth. By pressing the buttons, you play the guitar -- every press does something different, and what one button does can change in and of itself. And good improvisation is rewarded rather than punished, so sometimes not playing exactly what the game tells you to is actually better than direct copying. Of course, this is all happening at a breakneck pace, and you've got to remember where all the buttons are on the PSX controller fast enough to press them correctly, and also on time. All the while, the computer is singing some nonsensical song or another that nonetheless finds its way into your brain and never leaves -- the caterpillar/baby level's bubblegum pop is a prime example of this, with crazy lyrics about a baby that's got to go to the bathroom, one that still leaves me rolling on the floor -- and your groovy guitar playing. This is all interspersed with full motion video that moves the game along -- basically, you're trying to make it to your concert before it's too late. Silly, silly fun, but nonetheless, one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences ever made. Even if it sounds stupid to you, try it. You'll love it.

Now, for those of you who played PaRappa the Rapper (and if you haven't, go find it and buy it now), here are some of the major differences:

  • The difficulty has been ramped up considerably. In other words, it generally takes more than one sitting to beat the entire game.
  • There is a Multiplayer mode! You can play with or against your evil twin, Rammy... and if you beat the game entirely, a familiar face will join you for a new gaming experience...
  • You have multiple 'effects' that you can use with your guitar as the game progresses. There's no real noticeable effect on your score, but it sure does make the music sound cooler when you use the right effect.
  • You can save your performance in a level for later listening! This is great for those of us who love to experiment and make our own little grooves.
  • Did I mention the game is more difficult? ;)

The only unfortunate thing, I believe, about the game is that they changed the level where you went to Hell (in the Japanese version) to a deserted island. Huh? Did I miss some logical leap? I think our kids can handle such a basic concept as Hell. Sheesh.

Yes, this game is harder than the first one. No, it's not impossible, although a few levels may make you think it such. Persevere, and you will succeed. It's pleasant to know that it's not a one-sitting game, though -- although it's the replay value that always kept me going back to PaRappa and that will keep me coming back to Um Jammer Lammy.

Game Mechanics:
People know when not to mess with a winning formula, and in that, Um Jammer Lammy is no exception. The controls are the same as in PaRappa, with the addition of the 'effects,' which are turned on by pressing Select. Simple, amazingly easy to pick up, and engrossing as hell. The only real problem with this game is that it's really just PaRappa again. Sure, it's different songs, but it's the same basic premise (thankfully, without the 'I gotta believe!' hokum -- it's been replaced with 'Leave it to Lammy,' which is moderately more bearable). It's not as groundbreaking as PaRappa was. But, even as such, it's one of the most enjoyable game experience I've ever had, and I highly recommend it to anyone. Even if it sounds idiotic, I've yet to meet someone who's actually played PaRappa and said that they didn't like it. I feel the same about Um Jammer Lammy. Excellent stuff.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

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