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Um Jammer Lammy (PlayStation) artwork

Um Jammer Lammy (PlayStation) review

"UmJammer Lammy was a spin-off/sequel to Parappa the Rapper that I feel well deserves a sequel of its own. Actually I’ve been pining for a sequel ever since I first played the game, because as music games go UmJammer Lammy is one of the best around. "

UmJammer Lammy was a spin-off/sequel to Parappa the Rapper that I feel well deserves a sequel of its own. Actually I’ve been pining for a sequel ever since I first played the game, because as music games go UmJammer Lammy is one of the best around.

What makes it special. Well first there is such a positive attitude in the game. Lammy, her band, and her pal Parappa have none of those negative musician stereotypes. They manage to be hip without being bad-asses, druggies, or using sexual exploitation. Lammy herself is a rather scatter-brained girl who has trouble being on time, but she is also determined and hard-working. And although she has a paper-thin figure (literally…) she is the total antithesis of the ditzy female starlet who has to use her body to get noticed. And, most importantly, she and her band both rock!

There are seven different musical stages in UmJammer with a cute ongoing narrative in between each one. The story is that Lammy is late for her first ever gig with her band Milkcan and she must get there on time at all costs! Along the way she jams with a host of eccentric…I’d like to say people, but most of them aren’t human…and gets into some absurd situations along the way. But this is a music game and while the cutscenes were very well done, there’s always the option to skip them if you aren’t interested. And once each stage has been played through once it can be accessed again directly from the main menu, thereby bypassing the FMVs altogether.

The game has its own unique graphics, but don’t you dare mistake them for cheap! Characters are deliberately drawn to look like paper cut-outs, and the effect is quite charming. Sorry guys, no gratuitous booty shots for you. In fact Lammy doesn’t really even have a butt. Or breasts for that matter. How refreshing. But enough about story and graphics. Now it’s on to the most important part of a music game: the songs.

The opening stage eases you into the game controls very nicely. In it Lammy trades riffs with the singer who in this case is a giant talking vegetable named Chop Chop Master Onion. The format is the same for all seven stages: the singer sings a line, then Lammy must respond with her guitar. To help you out there’s a line at the top of the screen representing the music. As a miniature Lammy head scrolls along the line, the symbols L, R, square, circle, triangle or x will appear to tell you which button to press at a certain time.

But true rock guitarists never like to play exactly what’s written on the page, right? (That is, if they can read the music at all. HA!) So UmJammer Lammy gives you a lot of wide open space to work with, and this is where the game really gets good because you can show off by improvising with whatever combinations of buttons you feel like.

You are not only encouraged to improvise, but you must do so if you want to unlock everything in the game. As you play each stage your performance is being rated and can move between Awful, Bad, Good and Cool. If a symbol scrolls by and you don’t do anything, or press the wrong button, or don’t time your touch properly, your score will go down. If you hit everything with 100% accuracy you should maintain a Good rating and can pass to the next stage. But unlocking “secrets” can only be done if you finish with a Cool rating, and the only way you can be Cool is to improvise well. This area of the game shows a clever merger of music and graphics. If you’re doing well, certain things happen on the screen (i.e. more people will join the audience). Similarly, bad things start to happen if you are doing poorly, and if you manage to hit rock bottom the stage will shut down altogether. If you can bump yourself up to Cool rating in the middle of a song, the singer will back off and you get launched into the sky to embark on a free-form instrumental solo. But beware, it’s still possible to fall from grace if your soloing isn’t up to snuff.

UmJammer is a game where people with LESS musical training might actually do better. The game has a rather finicky idea of what constitutes “good improvisation” and not everyone may agree with it. It definitely prefers things to be square and on the beat and doesn’t go for triplets or syncopations. Hopefully they’ll tweak this if they ever make a sequel. On the positive side, the game will penalize you if it thinks you’re just button-mashing as fast as you can, so you do have to put some thought into what you’re doing.

The songs themselves are as insane and quirky as the people who sing them. They’re all “feel good” songs to greater and lesser degrees, with head-bopping pop back-beats and lyrics that could be taken from a badly translated Godzilla movie. There are only seven of them, which is truly a shame. However, replay value is high due to the fact that you get to jam to the songs not only with Lammy, but with Parappa and a third character, Lammy’s guitar-playing “dark-half”, Rammy. Not only that but there are a whole bunch of extra two-player modes where you can challenge another player and go head-to-head in a points battle, or collaborate and go up against the computer.

Don’t let its initial cuteness level fool you: this game has the goods to appeal to rockers of any age, gender, or species!

alecto's avatar
Community review by alecto (January 25, 2003)

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