The first two Viewtiful Joe games were titles to be commended, with Capcom demonstrating that 2D side-scrolling titles are still a lot of fun. Indeed, you'd be hard pressed to find anybody who isn't a fan of Viewtiful Joe and its successor. Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble is a complete change of pace for Joe and company, however. Initially released for the GameCube last year, this PSP version is a more or less a direct port; unfortunately however, this game fails to capture the magic of its predecessors.
The story in Red Hot Rumble is basic, but serves as a convenient enough excuse to get all the characters together to battle. Captain Blue has decided to retire from being a superhero and the next natural progression is for him to direct a movie. However, he has some issues finding a lead for the movie. Thus, Capt Blue decides to get all the characters from the Viewtiful Joe games to battle against each other, where the toughest and most impressive will be cast as the lead in the movie. The story isn't exactly thrilling, but it's the best you could expect from a game that brings the entire cast of Viewtiful characters together.
The single player mode is set up with missions which act as auditions. Each audition has a different objective, such as defeating boss characters or collecting the most gems. During each audition, you'll earn coins. As we mentioned, just about every character from the Viewtiful Joe universe makes an appearance and is unlockable, including Sexy Sylvia. The PSP version has Dante from Devil May Cry as an unlockable character, which is a decent bonus. Unfortunately, the characters aren't all as balanced as they could be, with certain characters proving harder to master than others. This means that if you don't choose the correct, or easiest characters from the beginning then you're going to have a tough time throughout the single player mode.
The moveset in the game is quite vast and it doesn't take long to learn everything the game has to offer. Sometimes it's possible to just press random buttons though, and you'll execute an attack. It's possible to use VFX powers with the L or R button as well. During each mission VFX orbs will appear and, if you collect the necessary number of orbs, then you can perform one of four VFX powers. The four powers that you can obtain include invincibility, mach speed (which makes you move faster), sound effects (lets you use a sound effect to your advantage) and zoom (makes your character a lot larger and more domineering).
The game becomes really chaotic quite quickly, which means that sometimes you just have no idea what is going on. Whilst the frame-rate keeps up, it's extremely difficult to tell who you are sometimes, and on occasions there's so much going on that it takes a few seconds to realise exactly what you're doing. The game does support up to four players for ad hoc battles, but they just aren't as entertaining as they should be, primarily because of how hard it is to track what's going on. It's actually made even worse in multiplayer because there are extra characters. You can play through more than twenty stages in the multiplayer though, so there is a decent choice. The game also supports gamesharing, where you can play against another person who doesn't own the game.
Trial mode is a new addition to the PSP version, and it's here that you take on challenges, trying to pass each and beat the records in the process. The trials aren't really that different to the main single player mode so you've really got to be into beating your own score to enjoy this mode. It feels like it's been tacked on, so there's a little more of the game to play through, because the experience is pretty similar in the end.
Whilst the amount of things happening on screen at once is confusing, it's also very technically impressive. The 2D visuals are stunning, and the colours are bright and vibrant. The fact that the frame rate doesn't skip a beat is something to be applauded, and there's enough variation in the levels to keep things looking good, even if some of the backdrops have been recycled from previous games. Not all of the levels are impressive, but the majority of the levels look decent. The game also sounds quite similar and will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played a Viewtiful Joe game before. The music is upbeat and the voiceovers are over the top, although some of the dialogue is a touch repetitive.
There isn't much of a reason to return to the game once you've completed it. Trial mode is supposed to draw you back in but it just feels like a cheap addition. The multiplayer really could have extended the lifespan, but it just isn't as enjoyable because you lose track of your character so easily.
As a fighting game Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble just isn't that enjoyable. In the transition to the PSP the game really hasn't changed from the GameCube version. It's an advantage being able to play the game on the run - the game can be a lot of fun in short bursts - but it's disappointing that the developers didn't really make any improvements to the gameplay with the extra development time enjoyed by the PSP version. At times, the game really does feel a bit like Super Smash Bros., but things become so chaotic that you're likely to get quite confused and frustrated, whether it's in single player or multiplayer. Average, and some way from being Viewtiful.