Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble
In the Play office, where the magic really happens, people share their iTunes playlists via a network system. It means that lazy sods don’t have to bring in their own music and other people can show how cool they are by having a playlist that includes nothing but really trendy tracks from some Scottish rock act. Luke Smith’s playlist, ‘Bossed’, is fairly agreeable on the whole, with some Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen acting as the notable highlights – nothing too adventurous, but enough going on to warrant a listen. It’s biggest asset though, is how it works as a perfect antidote to a couple of hours play on, Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble, the single busiest, most hectic beat-’em-up we’re ever likely to play on PSP.
You’ll forgive our long-winded intro, as after playing the aforementioned game we were inspired to at least try and be original. Rather than do what is fast becoming typical by just porting one of the extremely energetic and challenging Viewtiful Joe platformers from PS2, Capcom’s Clover Studio has come up with something different. It’s a beat-’em-up, sure, but one that still feels like the previous Viewtiful Joe games. You can slow down time, go to mach speed, traverse platforms, pick up power-ups, kick barrels about… y’know, stuff you aren’t usually able to do in a straight fighter. Of course, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs properly if we didn’t say that it owes quite a chunk to both the excellent Power Stone and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros Melee (the last remark shall be stricken from the record), but even with that in mind, Red Hot Rumble still feels remarkably new. There are a few reasons for this…
The term ‘stunning’ is often bandied around without much consideration, but for Red Hot Rumble it truly fits. Amping up the already-sharp style of the franchise, Clover Studio has really achieved something here, with your eyes constantly forced to bravely shield your brain from a terrific use of colour and animation. From the naturally fun opening intro, to the monotone loading screen, from the manic menu to the insanity of the competition, the game whizzes and whirls its way around some tremendous presentation with commendable pizzazz and an inexorable variety. The PSP will no doubt one day have games with better graphics, indeed they might already exist, but we doubt any will ever look as good as this.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the game is how Clover Studio has managed to so successfully marry the unique style of the Viewtiful Joe franchise to a similarly unusual type of game, it never feeling anything less than completely natural. Even before now the story and characters of Viewtiful Joe have really stood out, but here they take on a life of their own, enriching the game with their funky sensibilities and brazen attitudes. The previous games’ narratives, revolving around our hero getting sucked into a movie starring his idol Captain Blue, have certainly ensured that the quirkiness of Joe himself has been well communicated, but Red Hot Rumble’s central premise of having a variety of superpowered types (Dante included) audition to be the next Captain Blue means that so much more personality is injected into the title – something crucial to a game that relies a lot on charm alone. Combine this with the hundreds of throwaway delightful elements and phrases that litter the game and you’ve got something that can cut a smile right across your face.
There are a vast amount of modes in Red Hot Rumble – notably a multi-player one, which is where the longevity will inevitably stem from – but really, aside from the minimal Trial mode, they’re just different ways to play the same game. Not necessarily a bad thing, as the game has more than enough on offer to keep you interested. Each ‘audition’ is broken down into three or four scenes wherein you’re either competing against other wannabe heroes in a straight fight, gem-collecting, platform-jumping, bad-guy-bashing, or, well, something else that should feel a bit peculiar but isn’t. All the action happens at such an incredible rate; you start wondering how you’re ever expected to keep up, but due to some intuitive controls and some clear objectives, you get used to the remorseless insanity surprisingly quickly. It can be challenging stuff as well, sometimes frustratingly so, but the bite-sized sections always mean that an end is in sight, and the kinetic gameplay guarantees you won’t mind getting there at all.
Concessions have been made though, and unfortunately the excellent ’Joe combat we’ve come to know-and-love has been substituted for a diluted, lighter version, and whilst the game is good fun to play there is a lack of depth here. Add that to the fact that its thoroughly hectic nature will leave your head pounding for a week, and it becomes a slightly less appealing title than it might have otherwise been. Still, that won’t stop us recommending such a light-hearted and amiably boisterous title – just make sure you can hack onto the Play iTunes network once you’re done.