Um Jammer Lammy
Have you ever wanted to by a rock star? How about a female animated rock star dog? With an evil twin and mysterious teachers? And a female bassist and a drummer who is some kind of rodent with a stick of dynamite jutting out of her head? Of course you have! And Um Jammer Lammy is here to make your dreams come true! The game tracks Lammy's progress as she tries to get to her band's first gig.
There's a whole genre of videogames in Japan based around imitating things. In the dancing game, for example, you step on lighted spots on the floor when the screen tells you to. Parappa the Rapper (the predecessor to Um Jammer Lammy) was based around rapping -- pushing the triangle at the right time and holding it down for the right length of time made Parappa spit out the right syllable.
Anyway, Um Jammer Lammy is like that. The background music rolls along and the player works to hit the right buttons at the right time. It's slightly easier than Parappa, since hitting the wrong button just sounds a wrong note rather than making the main character say a random syllable. The game does reward going beyond the call of duty, so if you get the hang of play, you can play solos and riffs that weren't planned for.
The plot is confusing, since this game came from Japan. Lammy gets in a number of tricky situations (like losing her guitar or getting stranded on a desert island) while trying to get to her gig. Then, by picturing an imaginary casino and remembering the advice of an onion-headed guy from a dream (I told you it didn't make a lot of sense!) she's able to apply her guitar skills to the problem at hand.
Once a given stage is passed, it can be played again as "Rammy" (Lammy's evil twin) or Parappa, who gets slightly different songs to fit his rapping style. Parappa also gets new cut scenes and a new plot, which is even more incomprehensible than Lammy's. In fact, I'm still not sure if Parappa's cut scenes are supposed to form a plot or if they're just there for something to look at.
Graphics & Audio
The graphics reprise Parappa the Rapper's style of two-dimendional 3D animation. The characters are basically paper-thin cutouts, so when Lammy looks to the right, her head is suddenly very thin. It takes a little getting used to, but it's an interesting look for the game. There's a lot of things going on in the background that I kept wishing I could pause and watch, like a chorus line of firemen, but my eyes were glued on the line on the screen where the cursor told me what button to push when. There's an option for watching a scene you just beat, but it's kind of disappointing that a game with such an innovative look forces the player to watch a small part of the screen.
The music is pretty catchy and trying to play along to the same song seven or eight times is a guaranteed way to lodge it deep into your brain. There are three version of each song, since if you're playing badly, the background parts drop out until it's just you and the drums. With some songs this is really annoying, making it hard to get back into the game, but a few of the songs actually sound better when they're more simplistic.
This game isn't for everyone. If you've played and enjoyed Parappa the Rapper, you ought to pick this up. If you haven't played Parappa, give it a try before you play this one. There aren't many other games on the US market to compare it to.
Download Um Jammer Lammy
Phase two of Sony's twisted freak show of a music game has improved upon many areas in which PaRappa the Rapper lacked (well, you may not have known anything was lacking at the time...but that just goes to show how much work went into this sequel). With Umjammer, the Simon-sez gameplay has much more variety. The lines' sizes and locations are constantly changing, keeping you on your toes at all times. Was the one-player PaRappa experience too lonely for you? Umjammer spices things up with a very fun two-player (co-op or competitive) mode. If you thought PaRappa was over way too quickly, don't worry. Umjammer has the set of two-player stages plus an entirely separate story line for a hidden and playable PaRappa (in essence, Umjammer is six times as big as the first game, though you can still beat it in one evening). And despite being a tougher game with harder button combos and mixed-up music lines, the engine is much more forgiving, and therefore, less frustrating than PaRappa. What isn't better about Umjammer? Although the rock music really...urn...rocks, in my humble opinion, it isn't as catchy as the rappin' puppy's tunes. Also, the story line is so freaking bizarre--it borders on insanity. Umjammer is a fun game, but it's just not as cute or sound-minded as its predecessor.
Lammy's a sequei to PaRappa in the best way--it expands upon the first game's ideas and has more to do than the first one did. The music is hit or miss, some you'll be humming for days, others you'll have forgotten by the time the stage is over. It's a shame one of the strangest and most memorable moments in the game (the Hell sequence) was cut for the U.S. version. Still, Lammy's an excellent game that is a must-buy for all who enjoyed the original.
Like most everyone else, I loved PaRappa. It was the game I could show all my hipster friends because I knew they'd appreciate its postmodern primitivism. Lammy is a whole different animal. At first, I was a little scared. That vomiting caterpillar was a little too weird...even for me. The songs weren't as catchy, but after unlocking PaRappa and beating the game, it's really grown on me the way PaRappa did. Too bad Sony censored the U.S. Lammy.
I played this after a few beers one night, and it made me giggle a lot. It's really frickin' weird, and in places some of the imagery is just downright freaky. Although more involved than its predecessor, I have to say that I probably prefer PaRappa. Not because it was necessarily better, but because it was just so different from anything else. Umjammer is basically a refined PaRappa with more features and different music. Great party game though.