The best way to describe Red Hot Rumble is by screaming into your ear until it bleeds, followed by a catapult ride into a volcano that’s somehow floating in the sky. Putting the Viewtiful Joe characters into a smash-tastic, four-player beat 'em-up seems like a great idea, but it’s often an indecipherable orgy of color and noise.
Normally, the goal in games like this (the GameCube's Super Smash Bros. is the most well known) is to be the last guy standing - it’s you against two, three or four characters in a gang-bang fight to the finish. Here, the goal is to complete one or two objectives per fight and still stay ahead of everyone else in overall points. Each chapter is divided into four parts - succeed in them all and you'll unlock new fighters, levels and admittedly snazzy animated videos.
One goal may be to grab the most diamonds that are raining down on the screen while the next is to defeat as many enemies as you can within a time limit. You can easily focus solely on the objective and ignore the competition, but no beat-em-up works like that. The three other players want it just as bad. If someone else gets in the way, you can send ‘em flying with the series’ signature VFX moves (think color-saturated Matrix).
Instead of having the reality-altering powers available from the start, they’re found in randomly appearing power-ups. Slowing down time, zooming in to enlarge yourself and catching on fire are a few of the moves fans will recognize from the traditional Joe games. Also scattered around are bizarre, black hole things that suck everyone into a 10-second, super-twitchy minigame. Once inside, you've got to instantly size up what it is you're supposed to do. They're all very simple things (bang on the buttons, time input commands) but man, are they fast.
And to this end, the game is perfectly fine. One, even two-player fights are crazy but manageable. Try to play with all four and you’ll need a vomit bag right next to you. Imagine a screen literally filled to the top with enemies, items, players, animated backdrops and who knows what else, all flying in every possible direction. If you say you can easily keep track of what's going on, you're either lying or you're a robot made out of eyes.
The GameCube version was released many months ago. So what did the wait for PSP get you? Well, other than some longer loading times and a smaller screen that makes it even tougher to see what the hell's happening, there's Dante from Devil May Cry. He's brought a few other DMC characters along, but honestly, they don't change much.
The PSP version also has local game sharing, so if you're dying to make some friends give the sensory overload a shot so you can all go to the eye doctor together later, the option's there. If you've gotta go it alone, there're some new trial missions that task you with specific goals within a given fight. The extra mode isn't a dealmaker, but if you can stand the main game, hey, here's some more.
It's not like Red Hot Rumble is a total waste. The goals, while repetitive, offer more than a typical four-way smasher, but damn, it's hard to keep things straight. For gamers who like things categorically insane, you're looking at a go-to, button-mashy party game.