The 'Shroom:Issue XLI/Non-Marioverse Review
For this month, we’re reviewing Um Jammer Lammy, a Playstation guitar game often acknowledged as one of the first rhythm games.
In the mid‐to‐late nineties, a group of artists and programmers were quietly brewing what would be one of the most influential games of its time: PaRappa the Rapper. A major departure from the common adventure or shooting games, PaRappa was about a dog trying to win the heart of a flower‐like girl named Sunny Funny by rapping. The bizarre concept and cartoon graphics had turned some off (much like EarthBound), but nevertheless PaRappa was a mild hit, and has become one of the best‐remembered games of the original Playstation.
Fastforward to 1999, two years later. NaNa‐Onsha has banded together again to create a sequel/spinoff game, which would be Um Jammer Lammy. It’s still a rhythm game, but instead of rapping, you have to pull off careful guitar riffs, also in a Simon Says–like manner. The master sings, and you match the rhythm of their voice with your guitar. It’s a simple concept, but the game can be very addicting.
You play as Lammy, an anthropomorphic lamb who’s the popular guitarist of an all‐chick garage band, Milkcan. Lammy’s always late, but she’d better make it in time for Milkcan’s first live concert. Along the way, she’ll stumble into several insane situations: a pizza restaurant caught on fire, a caterpillar midwife who’s mistaken Lammy for pregnant after eating too much of said pizza, getting stuck on an island after time travel, etc. If you thought PaRappa was weird, Lammy will make you do a double‐take. It’s a good kind of weird however, despite how nonsensical the “storyline” of the game really is.
Lammy bests these situations by playing the guitar that’s “in her mind”. You’re given a whammy bar at the top of the screen, and you press the buttons that appear in time with the music. You’d better be familiar with the buttons on a Playstation controller! The first song in the game is dedicated to helping you get used to the control scheme and the different buttons however, and while you may have to redo songs several times, you’ll get the hang of it. (For me, listening to the songs beforehand definitely helps.)
You’re given a rank on the left side of the screen that switches (or stays the same if you’re consistent) after every “lyric” of guitar‐playing. The ranks are “Cool”, “Good”, “Bad” and “Awful”. Obviously, you don’t want to be in Awful mode – staying there for too long can be dangerous and may cause you to fail the stage. What you want to stay in in order to pass is Good. Or if you feel like freestyling, Cool. Getting Cool is definitely hard, as you have to come up with your own guitar riffs, and staying at that level is even more of a challenge.
Um Jammer Lammy has a few things you’d expect from a sequel: improvements to the gameplay, longer story mode, and multiplayer. In multiplayer, you can go at it together or competitively. When you finish One‐player mode, you’ll unlock the ability to play as PaRappa too, so it’s like having two games in one disc.
Maybe the main problem with the game is how your playing is judged – it tends to be WAY too harsh on your timing, for one. It’s not just about pressing all the right buttons when they come up; there’s a lot more to it, and even if you play “perfectly” you could still wind up in Bad mode. Some of the button combinations are enough to make your wrist sore after too much playing as well, so feel free to take breaks.
It’s a short game, but it’s a sweet experience and it definitely has some replay value. I’d recommend it to any rhythm game fans or those that just like crazy music and storylines.
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