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In Memory
Sean Pettibone



  

 

       

 


 


 

Everyoneís favorite hip-hop canine returns in Parappa The Rapper 2 for the PS2. Staying close to the original game, the flat cartoon characters and simple yet challenging follow the leader rhythmic gameplay remains intact. There are some new features such as battle mode and hidden areas to keep things interesting, but itís still Parappa. Some may find the simple gameplay mechanics, bright graphics and nonsensical storyline annoying, but as Parappa himself would say: "You Gotta Believe!"

Originally released in 1997, Parappa the Rapper was one of the most original and fun games on the Playstation. It didnít set the world on fire but was a sleeper hit. Parappa and its follow-up Um Jammer Lammy featured a distinct visual style engineered by taking the flat drawings of animator Rodney Greenblatt and animating them in a brightly colored, extremely vibrant 3D space giving the characters the appearance of flat papers. This was also one of the first of the popular rhythm games and popularized the genre domestically. While itís been awhile, the game has held quite a cult-following through the years. This is the seriesí first appearance on the PS2, and aside from a much improved visual appearance, most players would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Surprisingly, Parappa 2 doesnít change much of the original gameplay formula aside from adding the multiplayer modes. This lack of progression might annoy some but there wasnít anything wrong with the original game in the first place. A lack of similar music-oriented titles that Parappa 2 pioneered means that aiming for same audience isnít an inherently bad thing. Parappaís hasnít been ruined and its always nice to see developers not changing things just for the sake of change.

If you played the first game, youíll find this to be quite similar. The characters are still flat and look like paper puppets in 3D space. The gameplay is just as accessible and fun as ever. The object is too hit buttons in the same way the computer does, in a simon-says type approach. To help Parappa along, there is now a short practice session before each level. While the earlier levels are incredibly simple, the later levels can become quite complex and challenging. How well youíre doing is shown on an indicator at the bottom of the screen that rates the player from Ďcoolí to Ďawfulí. If you donít do a good job, you lose points on this and when your rating is Ďawfulí for one level, the game is over. At first, itís easy to play the game almost on auto-pilot, but later on the longer more complicated moves lists and faster pace make things much more challenging. You basically progress from level to level by successfully miming the track that the main characters sings Ė this is a lot of fun the first time through, especially since the storyline is so much fun, if a little nonsensical at points. While there are only 8 levels included in Parappa 2, the replay value is a bit higher than one would expect however, since there are additional features that add on to repeated plays.

Obviously, the controls are quite simple; all you basically do is push buttons. Itís the timing thatís tricky to get the hang of, though players who got through the first game will have little problem this time out. The run fun comes after you achieve some skill in playing Parappa 2. At this point, you can begin to experiment and can then Ďfreestyleí over these moves for additional points. This is a lot of fun. One of the other cool things about Parappa 2 is that when you beat a level, you unlock several new modes. The first thing is a new battle mode where you can face-off against the main character from that level in a freestyle rapping contest. This is where you can battle against either a friend or the computer using Parappa and one of the other characters. Playing the versus battle sequences is the most addictive part of the game, adding some more competitive play and increasing the fun factor in Parappa 2 exponentially. The dynamic of being able to freestyle allows the player to use their own creative style of rapping really sets Parappa 2 apart from other music games, and works well to counteract any tedium that could develop with its Ďsimon-saysí gameplay.

The coolest thing is that Parappa still has the same cast of wacky characters at his side. Parappa once again takes the starring role this time. He returns along with old favorites like Fuzzy Bear, Sunny Funny and Chop Chop Master Onion along with some new characters such as the Noodle Syndicate characters. In a nice touch, Um Jammer Lammy and her band Milk Can also make a welcome cameo later in the game, establishing a cool continuity between the games The plot is typically strange and bizarre Ė something about Parappa trying to grow up and fighting a bunch of people who are turning all the food in Parappa Town into noodles. Itís very light-hearted and goofy but thatís part of the fun. One of the biggest things that made Parappa 1 so popular with players were the goofy songs that were catchy and perfect to play along with. This is quite important and makes Parappa 2 quite accessible. The new tracks in Parappa 2 have a similar feel to them and are performed with silly irreverence by the same cast of excellent actors who appeared in the first game. Parappaís songs are quite creative and silly yet hard to get out of your head even after a few listens and make the game quite enjoyable throughout.

Of course, a game like this isnít going to appeal to everyone Ė itís simple Ďsimon-saysí gameplay mechanic, simple graphics, excessive cuteness and dopey plotline involving an "evil noodle syndicate" isnít for everyone. Oddly, those very qualities are exactly what make it so appealing. Itís a pleasant change of pace from the more intense titles on shelves these days. Some cynics may look at the bright graphics and simple mechanics then dismiss it as a title for small children, itís quite challenging at the later levels, allows for plenty of individual style and has some really cool multiplayer modes. You definitely need to be in the right mood but its quite fun and enjoyable if youíre in the right mindset. The gameís simple, undemanding gameplay mechanics and easy to learn controls make it highly accessible to those whoíve never played the original game. The good news is that fans of the first game will find plenty of things to like in the surreal plotline, new songs and multiplayer modes and should definitely enjoy the sequel. Its cartoony atmosphere and off-beat style make it an oddball title, but Parappa The Rapper 2 offers a plentiful amount of fun and challenge to go with it.