PaRappa, a rapping dog, has the hots for a girl with a flower for a head called Sunny Funny. The trouble is, she’s already going out with someone - a rich, narcissistic jock called Joe Chin. Undeterred, PaRappa embarks on a musical quest with his friends PJ Berri and Katy Kat to win her affections.
We’re describing PaRappa the Rapper, one of the best rhythm-action games ever made, ported directly from PSone and squeezed into a tiny UMD. Sure, we’d have liked some new songs, but it’s been ages since we’ve played this and it’s just as compelling - and unforgivingly difficult - as it was in 1998.
It’s simple, really - your instructor, be it a kung-fu onion or a reggae-loving frog, gives you a series of instructions in the form of a rap, which you must copy exactly and in precise time with the music. Each line of the song slides across a bar at the top of the screen, represented by a face or shoulder button, and all you have to do is press the corresponding button as it appears on the screen. But that’s how amateurs play PaRappa. If you want to go the extra mile you can “freestyle” - throw in extra phrases and rhymes - to reach the “cool” rating and earn your teacher’s ultimate respect.
The music’s fantastic. Chop Chop Master Onion’s infamous rap (“Kick! Punch! It’s all in the mind!”) is a blast, as is Prince Fleaswallow’s slow-burning reggae number, where PaRappa uses hip-hop to sell junk at a flea market. If your rapping stinks and your timing goes off the music slows down and your instructor starts to lose faith in you, but earn a “cool” ranking and they’ll often jet, leaving you to rap on your own. So in that respect it’s more than just a Dance Dance Revolution-style button-masher, as the levels can change depending on your performance.
But it’s too short. Why didn’t they throw in PaRappa the Rapper 2? Or even guitar-based spin-off Um Jammer Lammy? Probably because they want to release them all on their own and make more money. This means, though, that you’ll spit your way through the six songs on offer in less than an hour, and, although there’s incentive to beat your high score, it’s disastrously limited.
It’s an absolutely perfect concept and unbelievable fun while it lasts, but PaRappa the Rapper just doesn’t have the staying power to be an essential purchase. The PSP conversion boasts sharper visuals, wireless multiplayer battles, widescreen support and the ability to send a one-level demo to another PSP, but that’s hardly enough to make PaRappa 2007-style more than a simple remake.