Monday, November 8, 2010

UmJammer Lammy (1999)

      The PlayStation fell ill to terrible, terrible games. Well, maybe it was just my PlayStation. I received mine pretty late into it's life cycle, and looking back on my collection, I didn't have any of the killer-apps that my friends fondly reminisce about. I never had a game developed or published by Squaresoft, not even a Final Fantasy. I never had a Crash Bandicoot. I never even had Metal Gear Solid. It could have been my age, or my ignorance, but I had games like Streak: Hoverboard Racing, A Bug's Life, Rugrats: the Search for Reptar, and Ninja: Shadow of Darkness. That just scratches the surface of filth. I had the first Tomb Raider, but even that was a port of a Sega Saturn game. Yet somehow, within this terrible pile of coasters, I enjoyed myself at the time. Then I got UmJammer Lammy. This game would not only be my first foray into the rhythm genre of gaming, but a massive wake up call to what I should be playing on my PlayStation: good games.
      Lammy opens as a Saturday morning cartoon, and keeps up that motif through the whole game. It even has the cliche catchphrases one would expect from a 90's cartoon protagonist. The overall challenge is to get Lammy to her band's gig on time, with the meat of the game leading you to that grand finale. Each challenge in the game is it's own little episode, which contains a brief introduction to the problem at hand, a song that you play through that solves said problem, and the outcome.
     Now, as a whole, UmJammer Lammy is completely ridiculous, yet this somehow not only works, but makes the game stand out with flying colors. All of the characters are represented by paper cutouts à la Paper Mario, but this fact is emphasized in the way they bend and move. There's absolutely no continuity as for what the characters are: they range from animals to aliens and vegetables. The songs themselves are fantastic, if not for their actual composition, then for how off-the-wall they are. Lammy has the uncanny ability to turn anything into a guitar to solve the townsfolk's problems; at one point, this lets her play a baby. I love everything about it. I think especially now, with the emphasis on realism in gaming, Lammy is refreshing and a necessary experience to remind gamers of what was so captivating about video games in the first place.
     Specifically for this review, I went back and played through the whole game- yes, the whole game. In one sitting. It's extremely short if your rhythmically gifted, but even taking that into consideration some of the challenges are pretty tough. Needless to say, it was a blast. Even if you haven't played the game, it is absolutely necessary to download the original soundtrack. I laughed. I cried. Well, not really.