Is This Quirky $6 PlayStation Title Still Worth A Look?
If there's one thing that video game critics have in common, it's that we like to complain. We'll whine about boring missions, repetitive random battles, and a lack of innovation, but when we're faced with a title that's seemingly indescribable, we drop our pens and panic. One of these titles is Um Jammer Lammy for the original PlayStation (also available on PSN).
For individuals who played the hit rhythm game, PaRappa the Rapper, you'd think it'd be easy to describe its quirky, rockin' spinoff, but in reality, Um Jammer Lammy's premise is so strange that it'd probably befuddle Albert Einstein.
It starts out normal enough with a girl named Lammy rushing to a rock concert after missing her alarm, but it soon spirals into an adventure that couldn't have been conjured by the world's greatest clowns (yes, not even Dubya). Before things get too crazy, however, you're treated to a fairly tame introductory stage with Master Onion who was made famous in PaRappa the Rapper.
After imitating Master Onion's favorite "kick, punch" routine, the wannabe rock star, Lammy ,eats forty bowls of chocolate frosted sugar bombs (at least that's my theory for the game's sudden crazy transformation). From that point on, Lammy eats a slice of pizza, gets dragged into a nursery by a caterpillar and bunnies who think she's pregnant, and she's even threatened by a chainsaw wielding redneck. Those are just a couple of the game's quirky scenarios, and things could have been even weirder if the U.S. version hadn't been censored.
Instead of entering Hell on a particular level, the U.S. version has Lammy rockin' out at a resort. I'm sure parents welcomed this change to this already crazy game, but for most of us, the reason we play a title like Um Jammer Lammy in the first place is because of its quirkiness, so it made little sense to remove any of this title's oddities.
So besides the game's unusual, well-animated cut-scenes, what else is there to Um Jammer Lammy? Well, players will find the same rhythm-based gameplay encountered in PaRappa the Rapper, only now, it's as difficult as silencing an obnoxious third grade classmate.
To complete levels, you still press buttons that appear on-screen (i.e. L1, square, circle, etc.), but they now come at you faster than a bullet train. As if this didn't make Um Jammer Lammy difficult enough, there are also timing-based flaws to deal with.
If you press a button when the game indicates that you're supposed to, your score will slip. I'm not sure if this is an issue due to emulation on the PS3, or if the original game was plagued by this problem, but missing notes when your timing is correct is quite annoying for gamers who've played the much more accurate Guitar Hero and Rock Band games.
Often times, you'll have to mess around with rhythm and timing yourself; otherwise, you'll have no hope of beating a level, since you fail after only four or five mistakes. Fortunately, Um Jammer Lammy is quite short, so it's possible to win by luck eventually, but it's a shame that something which should have been skillful is strictly an experience of chance.
After completing the game, there are other options available such as co-op modes, and you can play through the entire adventure again using PaRappa, but with such shoddy gameplay, most players won't want to come back.
Even though Um Jammer Lammy's songs aren't as catchy as those found in PaRappa, it still could have been a decent game if its timing issues were fixed; instead, it's a shoddy mess that's only held together by its quirky cut-scenes. For players who want something that is unusual to the power of ten, I recommend watching Um Jammer Lammy's cut-scenes on Youtube instead of downloading it on PSN. At least that way you won't have to wrestle with buggy gameplay.