SONY PSP REVIEW: VIEWTIFUL JOE: RED HOT RUMBLE

The fast and frenzied gameplay of the GameCube version is even more chaotic on the PSP's smaller screen. by Cole Smith

March 30, 2006 - If I had to describe Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble, in one word, that word would be "frenzied." Thankfully as a game journalist I'm allowed more than one word to describe such a game.

I can see the trend of gonzo editing being assimilated into film and videogames. I'm talking about the collage of multiple camera angles and the interspersing of different scenes that are spliced in at a rapid pace intended to stimulate viewers. This technique became popular in many late-80's videos where it was developed to keep young viewers with short attention spans, interested. You can see this technique being used in movies, commercials, TV shows and even videogames that are aimed at a younger market that is already over-stimulated. Red Hot Rumble is guilty of taking this process too far which results in a schizo graphic style that is hard on the nerves - and hard to play. If only there was a speed control to the gameplay.

There actually is a speed control that is unique to the Viewtiful Joe series. It's in the form of VFX powers which give the main character, Joe, the ability to slow down time which slows everything and everyone around him while he becomes invincible. It's too bad we couldn't use and adjust this feature like an option slider for the entire game. With so many characters, obstacles, enemies and coins onscreen at once the action is just too intense. It really gets confusing to differentiate your character from the others which at times makes it just about impossible to play. This was a problem with the original Cube version and considering how much smaller the PSP screen is compared to the average TV set, things really get muddled.

The gameplay in Red Hot Rumble could best be described as a 2D, fighting platformer. As far as the controls go, the game is relatively easy to play. The fighting moves are limited but you can use the stick as a modifier to access different moves. There are lots of different characters to play as including Hulk Davidson, Gran Bruce and, get this, Dante from Devil May Cry. Many characters have alternate forms and costumes that give them different abilities. For the most part all of the characters share the same basic moves on the control system. They differentiate in their special attacks. But some are more powerful than others and have more useful abilities. Some characters can fly while others remain grounded which makes them unbalanced and less likely to win many fights. In a way it beats playing the same character for the entire game if only to add some variety.

Captain Blue is retiring from his life as a movie superhero but has taken up movie producing instead. He's looking for a new action hero to star in his movie and is holding auditions which feature many of the wacky characters from past Viewtiful Joes games. To audition for the movie, the characters visit various movie sets that include a variety of locations such as the Old West, a sci-fi planet, caves, tunnels and on the wings of an old-style plane. For each fight there are some objectives to accomplish such as being the last man standing, collect a certain amount of gems, defeat a boss or avoid getting knocked down more than one time. Not all of these objectives have to be fulfilled but if you fail some you will have to start all over again.

Coin collecting is your ticket to stardom. The more coins you have, the better you are doing in the audition process. Coins are awarded for completing objectives in battles but you can also collect them as they are scattered about in each level. Like the Mario games the coins are arranged in different patterns. For instance if you're falling, you can move your characters into a line of coins that are positioned diagonally. Chasing some of these coin lines can be dangerous and may lead you right off your platform, so you have to be careful.

There are other ways of getting coins. One way is to take them from your opponents. Just beat them up and steal their coins. This also works to their benefit if they're stronger than you. Another way to get coins is to collect VFX-orbs. If you manage to find a super VFX-orb it will initiate a series of mini-games in which you compete against another player for his or her coins. These games are relatively unchallenging and just require you to button mash the controls to fill gauges, turn the analog stick as quickly as possible in a circle, and hit a button at the precise time in a rhythm-style game.

A four-player mode is made possible with the Ad Hoc Wireless system. It's virtually identical to the single-player mode except there are more characters on the screen which make it all the more confusing. I'm not a big fan of this mode at all. You can play with one other player in which you will only need one copy of the game. This is more acceptable but it's not a co-op mode. It's every man for himself, so what's the point? Why make it any more difficult to play that you have to. Let the cheap bastard buy his own game to play.

Despite the chaotic nature of the gameplay, the graphics do look bright and colorful. They have an art style to them that gives the series a distinctive look. It looks every bit as good as the Cube version. The animations are fast and fluid and despite everything that's going on, the framerate is solid. There are just enough voiceovers to give the characters personality although some of the battle shouts can get a little repetitive. The intro music is catchy but the rest of it is forgettable.

Viewtiful Joe may have bitten off more than he can chew on his PSP debut. Even if you have the metabolism of a hummingbird, you're going to have a difficult time relating to the incredibly fast and confusing pace of this game.

Features:

  • New versus gameplay for the Viewtiful Joe universe The gloves come off during the 'audition' as players participate in this intense versus fighting action; a first for the award-winning series.
  • All-star cast of playable characters Reacquaint yourself with familiar faces or discover new and original characters from the TV anime series including Sylvia, Alastor, Sprocket, an ice princess that intimidates people with her cold stares, and Captain Blue Junior, Captain Blue's sidekick who calls himself 'Junior'.
  • Interactive environments In addition to new set designs, players will be able to use enemies and background elements to attack their opponents.
  • Two different modes of play Choose between one or two player cooperative mode.
  • Bonus PSP features Additional content will be available and specifically geared towards the portable system.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble (PSP)
4.1
Graphics
Colorful and cartoonish. Very artful. It's too bad that the pace of the game is so fast that we don't have the time to appreciate how good it looks.
4.0
Control
There are a good assortment of moves and a lot of different characters to play as but the gameplay is confusing with its overly fast pace.
4.2
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A good assortment of voiceovers adds character to the game, but the music is forgettable. The sound effects are brilliant.
2.1
Play Value
You might not even get through the single-player mode if you get frustrated easily. If you didn't like that mode, you'll hate the four-player mode. It's just way more confusing.
3.0
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: Capcom
Pub: Capcom
Release: Mar 2006
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best