PaRappa the Rapper 2


   When it came out in 1997, Parappa the Rapper was one of the few games at the time to cause a stir not just within the videogame world but also in mainstream entertainment. With defining reviews in Entertainment Weekly and healthy sales for such an offbeat title, it became one of the star titles in the PlayStation library. Five years later, though, that star's light has dimmed a little bit.

 Irregular figures
The inhabitants of Flatland

   All the elements that made the first game, and 1999's spinoff Um Jammer Lammy, so much fun are here but something seems curiously lacking from each. The graphics, for example, employ the same distinctive "paper-thin" style of both previous games, but the enhanced graphical power of the PS2 is in some ways a bit of a curse here. The actual models require very few polygons, and Nana-On-Sha seems to have overcompensated with character animation. All of the characters in Parappa 2 flail about wildly and needlessly, giving their motions an eerie and inhuman look.

   The storyline also lacks some of the random charm of previous games. Although the individual scenes in Parappa 2 are as haphazardly tacked-together as ever, the fairly dull framing story concerning noodle-based world domination takes up too much space, especially in the second half of the game. That said, the individual story events are as amusingly bizarre as ever, from Chop Chop Master Onion's "Romantic Karate" fitness show to a hairdressing showdown at the local salon.

From Space, from Space, Sir; whence else?
Concerning a Stranger from Spaceland

   The sustained weirdness almost elevates Parappa 2 to the heights its forebears achieved, but it's let down by its music. Many of the songs in Parappa 2 seem lifeless and without character, and few come near the insane catchiness found in the first two games. The musicianship is technically sound, and more musical genres are represented here, such as the soul stylings of Guru Ant's stage or (perhaps the game's best song) the chiptune theme of "Food Court," but they won't stay in your head for days the way that their predecessors did.

   Finally, the game's chief disappointment is the gameplay, which is largely unchanged from the series' first outing. It's no more or less fun than it used to be, but the genre as a whole has moved on while the Parappa is stuck in the same routine it's been using for five years now. To its credit, Parappa 2 does take to even greater lengths the emphasis on freestyling seen in Um Jammer Lammy, and is nowhere nearly as rigid as the first game. Finishing the game only completes the first "circuit," a full four of which are available; each circuit has different and more challenging vocal patterns for each song, and some songs in the later circuits will award no points for for simply following the teacher's example. However, the ability to play essentially the same stages four times over is a poor substitute for the abundance of extras included in Um Jammer Lammy such as that game's two-player teamwork mode and second quest. Add to this the game's curious lack of difficulty and no option to turn off grating "practice" modes with Boxy Boy, and Parappa 2's gameplay becomes rather hollow.

 Space is really Thoughtland
Out of your Plane you go

   The game also has a new type of versus battle built around freestyling, where one player improvises a line and the other must improve upon it, creating a rap that slowly escalates in difficulty until one player is defeated. Though the emphasis on free-form gameplay is commendable, it's ill-suited for the main Parappa series, which is built upon short vocal samples that sound nonsensical when strung together at random. If Nana-On-Sha continues this style of gameplay, it may do better to stick to Lammy or even give turntablist PJ his own game; instrumentals and record scratching would lend themselves better to experimentation than Parappa's rhymes do.

   Parappa 2 is a good enough game that continues the series without letting it down, but never takes the necessary next step. Its contemporaries, such as Dance Dance Revolution, Gitaroo-Man, and Rez, take the music-based gameplay it founded and add things like innovative controllers, more complex gameplay, and synaesthetic flavoring. Compared to them, Parappa 2 stands straight up but not quite tall enough.

Review by Nich Maragos, GIA.
PaRappa the Rapper 2
Developer Nana On-Sha
Publisher Sony
Genre Rhythm
Medium DVD (1)
Platform Sony PlayStation 2
Release Date  08.31.01
PaRappa the Rapper 2 US release date set
146 screenshots
4 friends and teachers illustrations
US box art