Um Jammer Lammy Review

By: John Doe

Parappa the Rapper was one of the most innovative and addicting games to grace any console. Now Um Jammer Lammy, the official sequel is available and it will undoubtedly be welcomed with open arms from all Parappa fans. This time out you won't be rapping (at first) but firing off guitar licks. Um Jammer Lammy is a great game for the whole family, musical or not, just be warned that you'll either love it or hate it.


I love it when my two professional lives collide. During the day I'm a mild mannered video game reviewer who works on the best gaming site on the net. When the moon rises (well, maybe closer to 4 PM) I'm a mild mannered professional musician who performs, records and teaches drums, guitar and bass. It may sound like I have the best jobs in the world but it isn't all it's cracked up to... oh wait a minute. Yes it is. Anyhoo, when a game is released that features music as its foundation, and really good, catchy tunes, I feel it's pretty good to be me. Um Jammer Lammy is an extremely well put together sequel. It captures all of the quirkiness of the first game, without trying too hard and relying on cliches. Yes it still features those bizarre one dimensional color form Rodney Greenblat characters, it is still chock filled with infectious music, it still entertains you with great story and animation, it still honks when you suck, and it still forces you to play an updated (yet more creative) game of "SIMON" to get through each level... it still does all of that, but this time you are a lamb who plays the guitar. And therein lies the difference.

Lammy is the guitarist in the all-female trio called MilkCan and she is having a terrible time trying to get to her gig on time. That's where you come in. You'll have to take the advice of good old Master Chop Chop and imagine your guitar is with you at all times to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Just like in the first game, a short animated prelude sets up the theme of the level and you'll have to let those fingers fly lightnin' fast on the fretboard to follow through. Watch the top part of the screen for your button presses and when it's your turn, give Joe Satriani a run for his moola. The premise is simple and addicting to say the least.

Fans of Parappa may find the whole guitar thing more than a little odd. But give it a chance and you'll do just fine. It does take some getting used to. I'd say you could expect a good half hour learning curve, even if you are a celebrated and decorated Parappa alumni like myself.

The whole trick to beating the levels is to, quite simply, not suck. Which is hard when faced with intricate button presses (the game uses all of the buttons) and the sheer speed and rhythm at which they are too be played. If you can keep the meter at between Good and Cool, you'll not only earn some wicked points, but you just may get to freestyle. Freestyle playing was available in Parappa (but only after you beat a level), but this time out you can reach Cool right out of the starting gate. If you do manage to reach the highly coveted Cool award, the stage will change, and your opponent or teacher will disappear and you can go for it on your own and rack up some major pointage. Start sucking and things will return to normal faster than you can say "rhythmically challenged."

At the end of each level your teacher will give you an item. This is an "Effector". These resemble actual guitar effects such as reverb, distortion, wah-wah, flanger and harmonizer. You can use the one given to you in the next stage to modify your guitar sound. To do this use either the D-Pad or left analog control. You can also use the L2/R2 buttons to change the pitch of your playing. Experiment for some truly unique sounds.

Musically this game has some great tunes. I didn't find them as catchy as in the original Parappa but that's too be expected. The variation in the music is pretty diverse. You'll play everything from funk, dance, pop and even metal. The least appealing tune has got to be when Lammy lands an impromptu gig with another band. It features some very strange vocal melody and words.

The themes in this installment are just as "out-there" as in Parappa. Remember when Parappa had to win a rapping contest just to use the john? This time out Lammy gets mistaken for a pregnant teen and ends up in a clinic... uh, ummm...okay. She'll also have to fly a plane, put kids to sleep while dealing with some sort of puking slug/nurse, make a guitar out of a tree, put out a fire, play with another band and make it to her gig. In this game all the fun is in getting her there.

Um Jammer Lammy sports a two-player mode this time out, which made for some interesting match ups at E3 this past May. Imagine playing this game on huge jumbo tron screens... Due to controller problems I was only able to play the one player mode, but I can tell you that from being at E3 that the two player mode is a blast. Once you save your game after each level, you are welcome to return at anytime and try to beat your previous score.

Complaint Dept. Unfortunately, this game does have some shortcomings. Seasoned vets may get through the game fairly quickly. I made it through on my first try in less than 45 minutes. Of course, I didn't see everything, or find all of the secrets (You can play as Parappa you know...), and I did play it at E3. Still, don't expect months of replay value. This game is as much a showpiece to your friends as it is an entertaining video romp, so view it as such. In the control area I found the guitar had some lag time to it on certain riffs which made matching up rhythm and control almost impossible. You have to anticipate the beat and play ahead of it some times, which will be terribly frustrating for a lot of people out there. My last complaint and it's a biggie, is that when things are getting out of control and you are playing bad, the goose honking will start and the music will change, which makes concentration almost impossible. There is just too much going on at once.

Rest assured that if you liked Parappa you will thoroughly enjoy Um Jammer Lammy. There certainly aren't a lot of games that encourage togetherness but this game just compels people to gather around it. It's a sad remark on gaming that for all of the thousands of games available, there are less than a handful of games that promote things other than violence. If you are looking to add a game that's actually fun to your collection, look no further than this one. Just remember that letting your 14 year old unwrap this game on his birthday when he is expecting FF8 is not only downright mean but also probably illegal in some states. This is a fringe game that should not be ignored, but like all things, has its proper place in the hierarchy of your game collection. File it under F for Fun, Funky and Fret-tacular!






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