Monday, August 6, 2012

VGR UmJammer Lammy

And after some delays, here's finally my playthrough and review of PaRappa's first sequel, the guitar themed musical game UmJammer Lammy!


VGR: UmJammer Lammy
From NanaOn-Sha
Played on PSX
Also available on PS3 & Arcade

Type Musical game
Year 1999

Some call it spinoff, I prefer to see it as the sequel it was imagined to be to begin with. When PaRappa Rappa was released in the early Playstation days, rap music was huge, and something newly introduced in Japan.
For the follow-up, Masaya Matsuura - founder of NanaOn-Sha, game designer and musician- wanted to explore other genres of music.

The game still employs Rodney Greenblat's unique gorgeous art style, but this time the protagonist isn't PaRappa anymore, but instead a cartoony lamb by the name of Lammy. Sort of inspired by then-current music celebrities (Natalie Imbruglia comes to mind) and the whole game is based around rock music.
(from Rock'n'Roll, to Metal, passing through Pop, Punk and J-Rock on the way!)

Let's dig into the story first!

Dojo, casino, it’s all in the mind!~

After a little prologue/intro/tutorial played against returning boss Chop Chop Master Onion, we are introduced to Lammy!
Lammy wakes up a bit late in the afternoon, and she's late to her band's very first concert which is taking place across town!

She's part of MilkCan, alongisde PaRappa's friend Katy Kat, the bassist and lead singer, and the unfathomable Ma-San on drums.

On her way to the concert obstacles continue to arise to delay her.
She needs to cross the street, but a fire is blocking the way!

My guitar is in my mind!!

Thankfully she remembers the advice Master Onion gave her (which was given in a dream.. but let's not question that!)
Master Onion lost is dojo..but the dojo is still there, in his mind. He even added a casino to it! Everything's possible with some imagination!

Lammy must overcome all these obstacles one by one, put out fires, land a plane, help some babies to sleep, go to hell and back (!!) before the big concert!

Gameplay-wise, it's mostly similar to PaRappa.
You play some assigned chords via the buttons.
This sequel didn't really add much gimmicks like series usually do, and instead builds upon what was already right in the first game. Like its predecessor, the background music will depend on your ranking which is seen in real time on screen through a metter from Awful to Bad, Good and finally the almost impossible to reach-Cool ranking. Once you played through a level, you can attempt to reach the Cool-rank by riffing, improvising notes but never being out of synch.
Also there's a nice bonus, for the Jimmy Hendrix wannabees out there, most bosses will offer you new guitar effects for defeating them, like a Wah Wah-effect or a new reverb.

Leave it to Lammy!~

NanaOn-Sha definitively listened to their fans.
The game improves on all aspects of the original.

The cutscenes are done much better. There's a better and smarter use of 2D and 3D graphics. (the world is purely 3D now, while the character use beautifully rendered flat-2D, like PaRappa, but sharper).
The game sports a beautiful, very catchy and memorable soundtrack.

And there's finally more replay value this time around!
Finishing the game with Lammy will unlock a fully playable PaRappa!! With his very own Rap-oriented tracks. Fans of the original game will all love this bonus!

Playing through the game also unlocks a whole array of fun multiplayer modes.
The game offers various kinds of co-op or versus modes for either 2 players or against the CPU. It really triples the replay value.
Like the first game you can unlock a little final easter egg, PaRappa forced you to score all Cool-ranks for a little tiny bonus, Lammy gives you access to a richer sound test mode for only simply playing through all of these.

Overall, it is easily one of the best music games if not a perfect sequel!
Still fondly remembered to this day.
It is definitively harder than the first PaRappa, but musically as good and memorable. And you'll find yourself going back to some levels anyway.
The difficulty curve gets challenging in the first couple of levels, even if it's only 6 levels long!

On the egative side, the first dojo stage is only playable through Lammy's original storymode. Which is a shame!
Also I can only complain about the quality of PaRappa voice samples, but it's easily understandable, the game disc is already reaching the size limit of what was available at the time.

The playable PaRappa is a great addition, but add to that the various mutiplayer modes, Lammy and her evil twin Rammy in co-op or versus modes..
It is really sad that today the music genre ditched completely the story-angle and went for a more simplistic approach from Dance Dance Revolutions to Guitar Heroes.. I really feel like the genre devolved...

Anyways, it's a more lengthy game despite its few number of levels, more so than its predecessor either due to the modes or difficulty.

The game got through some little edits for its US release though. The Hell-stage got censored (still in the story, but kinda altered..), some lyrics here and there changed as well. Nothing alarming.

The game didn't sell well (awww...), though it was well received by the critics and even managed to win the E3 1999 Game Critics Awards for Best Puzzle/Trivia/Parlor Game, Outstanding Achievement in Sound!

Namco worked on an Arcade adaptation later on, using a unique guitar-shaped controller.

I give it:
3 / 3 PaRappas!

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