Title  : Parappa the Rapper
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation
Publisher  : SCEA
Game Rating  : 8.0
Review by  : Ken Gagne

When it comes right down to it, all video games are nothing more than glorified button-pushing. Sony makes no attempt to disguise this truth in PaRappa the Rapper, for the PlayStation. 

This is the tale of a young city-dwelling pup, PaRappa, who spends his days frolicking with a bear, a cat, and a sunflower. Having fallen in love with the flora, Sunny Funny, PaRappa must mature and master new skills to win her devotion. What better way to do this than through rapping? 

The game is divided into six stages, with PaRappa training under a different master in each. After the master raps a quick tune, PaRappa must do the same, or possibly improvise something better. Each button is a varying different word or action, dependent on the stage. A bar across the top of the screen displays the correct rap to imitate, in tempo and order. 

Naturally, such a title would be highlighted in its music. PaRappa's tunes do not borrow from the bad reputation earned by some of today's rap music. The melodies have a fun rhythm that'll have the players swaying despite themselves. The musically-inclined may find it easier to rap out a tune by closing their eyes and keeping the beat, rather than following the on-screen meter. 

The graphics are bright and cheery, creating a world as simplistic as this title's gameplay. Animated sequences between raps are a hoot, detailing the antics of PaRappa and friends, as well as how rapping is always the cure. The characters are literally two-dimensional; when the camera pans, they appear with length and height, but no width. This is just another fun quirk of the game's atmosphere. 

It is essential that such a "Simon Says" type of game have perfect control. Whether or not PaRappa succeeds in this department is hard to judge. Sometimes it seems like the senseis' raps are being imitated perfectly, yet the player's score continues to dwindle without cause. Other times obvious mistakes will earn extra points. There is obviously some trick to mastering when to push the buttons, and getting there can be quite an experience. 

The main goal of reproducing button sequences sounds deceptively uncomplicated. But the number of attempts needed to get each rap down pat can be extraordinary. Practice helps to anticipate arrangements, just as it helps to learn the curves of the road in a driving game. If one rapping stage seems insurmountable, there are no alternative obstacles to tackle in the meantime, though, which can provide some frustration. The documentation is a bit unclear on how to create suitable improvisations, leaving that to the players' imaginations. 

PaRappa the Rapper is short but sweet. Its simplistic gamestyle and humorous nature is a breath of fresh air in today's market of clones after clones, without being a pushover. A few more levels would've gone a long way, but then, that's for the sequel.


This article is copyright (c) 1997, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 08-Dec-97