Viewtiful Joe Red Hot Rumble

Reviewing games is not unlike relationships. If the game is charming, you tend to approach everything with the best intentions. Potential character flaws are either initially ignored or at the very least are not seen as necessarily causes for alarm.

In that sense, Viewtiful Joe Red Hot Rumble is the perfect blind date. Dressed in immaculate production values, its attractive presentation exudes an uncommon degree of confidence meaning it's thoroughly seductive from the moment it loads up. In other words, there's nothing to suggest it's suddenly going to turn psycho on you.

And yet…

To be fair, had you not been so starry eyed you might have picked up its violent tendencies from the game's plot: with production on the new Captain Blue film about to kick off, the various characters of the Viewtiful Joe universe decide to audition for the lead, which is effectively a euphemism for knocking seven bells out of each other.

And as is so often the case with troubled individuals, at first all seems fine. You pick a character, go through the tutorial that explains the simple controls – just attack, jump and special attack (though attacks can be used in conjunction with directional inputs for additional moves) – and then it's lights, camera, action.

The Story mode is divided into short narratives, themselves split into segments, which require you to literally fight another 'actor' for the lead. So, for instance, you may be asked to eliminate the highest number of enemies on the screen, collect the most gems, be the last one standing or defeat a boss while also ensuring your adversary doesn't beat you to the part.

This brings an additional tactical element to the table, and things are made more intricate again with the introduction of VFX power-ups: Slow grinds the action around you to a crawl while you continue to move freely about; Mach Speed has you flying around the screen in a ball of fire (which affects everything it touches); Sound Effect delivers a sonic blast; and Zoom turns you into a giant. They may not sound like much but deploying them at the right moment can turn a game around.

If you want to interrupt a game, then pick up the VFX Battle icon. Once activated you're transported into a parallel universe for one of a series of reaction-based mini-games, the winner of which gets to collect a considerable monetary (points) reward the moment everyone is returned to the 'normal' game.

Even without the time/space continuum disruptions, the scenarios themselves are as ridiculous as the plot but that's part of the frantic fun. You'll soon think nothing of fighting on the wings of a bi-plane or punching the side of a giant fruit machine.

The fun soon stops the moment there's more than two characters on-screen though, which is around the time Red Hot Rumble suddenly reveals its true nature.

Even with three players (either computer-controlled or ad hoc chums), it becomes near-impossible to follow the action as the display is suddenly besieged with characters, icons and graphical effects. Add another player and it is simply unplayable, with winning becoming an unrewarding, button-mashing lottery.

And that's when any rational person would call it off. Sure, you'll be tempted to go back to flirt with the Trial levels (40 entertaining one-player focused mini-games) and the thrill of the occasional quick two-player (particularly cooperative) Red Hot Rumble romp is unlikely to lose its appeal, but you'll do so knowing this isn't a game you'll ever settle for.

Viewtiful Joe Red Hot Rumble is out now – click here to buy.

Viewtiful Joe Red Hot Rumble

Attractive but with deep issues, Red Hot Rumble's contribution to the PSP library can often be an incoherent, confused mess
Joao Diniz Sanches
Joao Diniz Sanches
With three boys under the age of 10, former Edge editor Joao has given up his dream of making it to F1 and instead spends his time being shot at with Nerf darts. When in work mode, he looks after editorial projects associated with the Pocket Gamer and Steel Media brands.