My fondest memories of cheat codes and unlockable content are firmly rooted in the Playstation One era. Video games had finally made the transition to disc-based media, and this upgrade provided developers with even more room to flex their creative muscles. Fighting games featured hordes of hidden characters and modes. Role-playing games became multi-disc epics; chock full of art galleries and enemy encyclopedias. A traditional platformer could provide players with hours of additional gameplay well after the main quest was completed. These were the glory days of the video game secret, where the hype machine of the gaming industry lacked the resources to spoil mysteries for the sake of publicity. Every disc seemed to have unlimited potential. There could even be a game hidden within a game.
As one of the two titles that were purchased with our PS1, Parappa the Rapper was a big deal for my brother and me. We loved its off-beat and colorful art style, along with the innovative gameplay it provided. At that time, the concept of rhythm games was still in its infancy and Parappa’s six little levels left us hungry for more. When the sequel hit store shelves, we bought it immediately, ready to rock our way through another goofy music game.
Um Jammer Lammy was a complete upgrade to Parappa the Rapper. The game featured smoother animation, more levels, and an unlockable two-player mode. For every level that was completed in the single-player campaign, that stage would be added to versus mode and a co-op campaign. My brother and I could shred through the story mode together, or face off in epic guitar-solo duels. Eager to unlock every stage for the multiplayer modes, we barreled through the single-player campaign. Upon completing the final concert, a familiar face stepped out of the adoring crowd: Parappa the Rapper!
At first, we thought the presence of our favorite rapping canine was merely a cameo, a polite nod to fans of the first game. To our delighted surprise, Parappa Mode was unlocked for play. The single-player campaign was made fresh with rap versions of every stage. Not just simple remixing, but a full re-purposing of every stage and its music to suit Parappa. New multiplayer modes were unlocked as well, featuring co-op and versus stages between the protagonists of each game. Finally, my brother and I could settle our age-old feud between rap and rock music in the arena of video games.
The existence of these extra modes came as a total shock to my brother and me. There were no hints, previews, or shameless advertising that let slip the presence of Parappa in Um Jammer Lammy. It was like an entire sequel was hidden within the game, just waiting to be unlocked and sweeten an already spectacular experience. These days, that sort of content would be leaked months before the shipping date as a means to create media buzz and overzealous promotion. A worthwhile extra like Parappa Mode would be packaged as marked-up DLC, or worse yet, as a ludicrously priced expansion pack. So instead of longing for a sequel for these beloved characters, I take comfort in my memories of a simpler time; when a video game could still hide a secret on its disc.