Parappa the Rapper
What do a dog, an onion, a moose, a frog, a chicken and a spider have in common? I have absolutely no idea, but they can sure bust out a funky fresh rhyme. I could spend the entire review asking questions of why, who and where, but it really does not matter. The only thing that matters is that someone actually did, and the PSX is all the better for it.
The story of the game goes a little something like this. You are a dog, better known as Parappa. You live a simple life with only one ambition. What is that ambition, you ask? The same ambition as everyone else -- gaining the attention of the opposite sex. It just so happens the object of your desire is a walking, talking, living flower named Sunny Funny. All Parappa wants in life is to impress Sunny and to kick the occasional hip-hop jam. Sounds like a simple life, eh? Don't be so sure!
Before I say another word about this game, I must get this off my chest. We have all read and heard about games that were "original" or "unique." These words do not even come close to describing Parappa the Rapper. This game is like nothing you have ever seen before. It is nearly impossible to accurately convey the gameplay because it will end up sounding silly and not that inviting. Well, I will do my best at painting the picture of the game but I will never be able to truly express what the game is all about. The only way to capture the true experience is to play the game.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let's talk gameplay. The object of the game is simple; just press one of the buttons on your controller at the correct time and you will do fine. Think of this as the old game, Simon. The instructor will rap something and you just press the button that flashes on the screen to imitate the rap. If you don't press it at the correct time or if you press the wrong button, your rap rating and points will go down. If your rap rating hits Awful, your instructor will flunk you and you will have to start the level again.
So who are these instructors I am speaking of? Each level has an instructor that you must impress so you can move on to the next level. In most cases, you will mimic the rap the instructor kicks. One of the best parts of this game was the unique personalities of the instructors. Each had a distinct music style and you will find yourself linking the instructors with their environments and different raps. For example, the first instructor you will encounter is named Chop Chop Master Onion. Chop Chop is a giant onion-head in a karate suit. His raps revolve around kicking and punching while teaching you karate. The other instructors include Mooselini, a moose that is your driving instructor; Prince Fleaswallow, a frog that works at a flea market; Cheap Cheap the Cooking Chicken, a cooking chicken; and MC King Kong Mushi, a Master MC spider. Each and every character had a personality and sound that was unlike any of the others and before the night is out, you will get to know them quite well.
As you may have figured out from the instructors and their environments, the levels are based on an ongoing story. Each of instructors has their own level which Parappa must complete to obtain or achieve something. For example, on the level with Cheap Cheap the Cooking Chicken, you are taking cooking lessons because it is Sunny Funny's birthday and you need to get her a cake. To make a long story short, you need to learn to bake her a cake so she will fall for you on her birthday. Each of the levels has a similar storyline that the rapping follows. My personal favorite was the toilet levels, but I won't ruin it for you.
Okay, so now you have a bit of an idea what the game is about, let me try to give a little bit more detailed explanation of the actual gameplay. Obviously the idea of the game is to rap. The raps you will kick come from the instructors. What you, as the player, need to do is watch the screen and press the appropriate button as the moving icon crosses over it. For example, you will have a line that stretches across the top of the screen. Halfway across the line, you will see two squares, a space, then two circles. You have to wait for the moving icon to cross the two squares and push the square button twice. Wait until the icon crosses the space, then press circle twice when the icon crosses the circles. Each of the buttons has a word associated with it, so what you are really doing is following the music and inserting the words at the appropriate time. I know it sounds easy and not very exciting, but trust me, it is not easy and it is a blast.
After you complete the stages, which should not take you that terribly long, the game really starts to get fun. Now the object shifts from just following the instructors' lead to doing some freestyle rapping. Freestyle rapping allows you to take the core rap that the instructor throws out at you and twist and change it. You will be rewarded for adding some extra scratching and creativity to the rap. The instructor is still the ultimate judge of your freestyling, but your buddies in the room will let you know how good or bad you really are.
I did have a minor issue with the game. It is nothing big and I just accepted it after awhile, but the scoring system seemed inconsistent. It got a bit frustrating when you would match the rap perfectly and the instructor would still deduct points. Other times, I would butcher the rap and I would get rewarded with points. I was really confused on how the system worked. It was lame when I would bust out with the dope jam and get dissed on the scoring. Oh well. Nothing is perfect.
Graphics & Audio
The graphics in this game are a riot. If you are looking for 3D polygons, light shading and 60 FPS, you are looking in the wrong place. That does not mean that the graphics are bad. Actually, the graphics were great for this game. The characters are as one-dimensional as they come. Actually, they looked like paper cut-outs brought to life. I loved every bit of them, although the story sequences did get a bit long. This is one of those games that is as fun to watch as it is to play, because you can see all of the dancing and moving going on that you otherwise would not be able to watch.
The backbone of the game has to be the audio. Since this is a game centered around rapping, the music was not an oversight as in some games. I can't say that I am a big fan of rap, but it did not matter. I still found myself humming the tunes throughout the day. Actually, it took me twice as long to write this review because I can't get the Cheap Cheap song out of my head and it keeps distracting me!
If you are looking for a game that will be fun for the whole family, look no further. Parappa the Rapper has gone where no game has gone before and pulls it off with ease. If you sit down and give the game a chance, you will be hooked. One word of caution, though; if you have a bad neck, stay away from this game. It is virtually impossible to play without bobbing your head or moving some part of your body. You have been warned!
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