Inside Pulse 12

Review: Joe Danger: Special Edition (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Joe Danger: Special Edition
Genre: Racing
Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: 12/14/2011

It was only recently that I bought a PS3, and I’m guessing that like most people who buy a new console I had an idea of the games I wanted to buy. Among those games were the usual popular titles, the Uncharteds, the Ratchet and Clank games and so on. But I also was really excited to finally get to play Joe Danger, at that point a PSN exclusive.

Then I read that it was going to be coming to Xbox Live in the winter with extra content, so I waited for that instead. That said, I’d like to make one thing very clear: no matter what system a person might play this game on, one thing is for sure – Joe Danger is a damn fine video game.

There’s a minimal amount of story to the game that sets up who Joe Danger is and why he has a reckless disregard for his own well-being. After Joe, a world famous stuntman, becomes injured while attempting a large stunt, he is trying to make a comeback. Now he must start from the bottom rung of the ladder and try to work his way back up through different events to try and become a Master of Disaster again. If this was a movie his journey would be summed up with a montage, but this is a game so we get to try and guide Joe back up the ranks to being the best Stuntman of all time.

While the story is mostly there as window dressing to give a reason to the rest of the game, it works with the style and is just the right amount of story needed for this type of game. Aside from the Career mode, which chronicles these exploits, there are a number of other modes. There’s the Laboratory, which has some of the more inventive level design and a higher challenge than some of the single player levels. It’s actually worth playing some of those levels first since it really stresses techniques that are introduced later into the single player game, and it’s exclusive to the special edition version of the game. There is also a Sandbox mode where you can design your own levels. This is fun and the user interface makes this simple to do. For some reason, though, you can only share levels between people on your friendslist. A way to share these levels and download levels made by strangers in the community would have been welcome, especially since at the moment no one I know owns the game. Hopefully this will change when I badger them into purchasing it.

The game can be played multiplayer, though only split-screen multiplayer. Like the screen of the person or persons playing the game this way, I am torn about this because I don’t understand why they did make this mode for people to play online with others. Then again, it seems so few games have split-screen multiplayer and as I enjoy playing games with my wife, this is a feature I want more games to have. There are online leaderboard and each time you beat a level the game instantly shows you a comparison of your time to that of your friends.

Graphically the game looks like a cartoon, with an exaggerated character model, vivid colors, and an array of background that feature smiling or goofy objects. It looks really slick, there’s no technical issues with any of it, and it animates really well. There are times when you will wreck the bike and Joe will flop about that look extremely painful, even with the cartoonish graphics. The menu presentation is done really well and the game has a lot of easy to read, helpful visual cues for different objective on the screen that manage not to get in the way of the action. There are different costumes to unlock, and wearing a different one will change some of the collectable items on the screen to match with whatever costume you have unlocked.

For example, right now there is Santa DLC available (FOR FREE UNTIL AFTER CHRISTMAS – GO GET) that changes Joe into St. Nick. Choosing this costume makes it appear that there is snow falling on screen, changes the bike into a festive ATV, changes the collectables on the screen into looking like presents, and makes it so the higher tier tricks are appropriate for a man from the North Pole.

The sound is pretty good, though the announcer gets repetitive. The background music is acceptable in the way where it’s neither good or bad, it’s just there in the background minding its own business and not trying to offend anyone. The sound effects are nice. Picking up level objectives sounds a lot like the sounds you would hear for picking up something in an 8-bit Nintendo game, but it feels right.

The game itself is an odd blend of Excitebike and a 2D platforming game with a distinct aftertaste of Tony Hawk Pro Skater. The controls work perfectly – right trigger for the gas, left for brake/reverse, and the left joystick for controlling how Joe leans on the bike. The game adds other controls over time, pressing the X button to duck and releasing it to bunny hop, the bumpers for doing tricks, A for boosting, etc. Then it starts to weave them all together with level design that demands that you execute these maneuvers well.

The platforming aspects come from trying to collect items through the levels at different heights and across various gaps, utilizing the ability to double jump. Reacting to obstacles and jumping from and onto platforms correctly becomes essential for both collecting items and surviving to the end of the level.

The game also has a little bit of Tony Hawk in it. Not the bad Tony Hawk games, I’m talking the early Tony Hawk games before the vampire that is Activision sucked the good out of it (I’m not saying Activision is an evil monster of the night, by the way, just that I won’t shed a tear if someone staked Bobby Kotick). Each level has different stars to gain from completing different objectives. Some of these might be pulling of a trick through the entire level, collecting the letters to spell out D-A-N-G-E-R, secret stars, pulling it all off within a certain time, collecting coins or other objects within a level, and/or landing within certain zones correctly. Sometimes a combination of any or all of these, along with SE medals on some levels for managing to pull all the star objectives off at the same time. There are also level score trophies to gain. Change hidden star to hidden tape, DANGER to SKATE, blast some Ace of Spades by Motorhead, and you’d complete the flashback experience.

They’ve managed to combine three types of games I like into one game, in really well done manner, so I can’t help but love the game. It’s like taking bacon, cheese, and chicken. I love all of them separately and when blended all together it makes it even more delicious. Joe Danger is like a super delicious chicken, bacon and cheese smoothie.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

One advantage of all of these stars to gain is that you aren’t required to do it all in one try, which encourages you to keep playing the same level over and over again until you do meet the objectives, collect all the stars, and get a high score. There are also race levels which square you off against AI racers. These aren’t very difficult as long as you know how to keep boosting through the level. There are also some levels which require you to shift around some of the objects within the level in order to obtain certain stars, and while simple, they’re fun to puzzle out.

All of the levels are fairly short, which makes this a game I would say is easy to just pick up and play when you have a couple minutes, that would be incorrect. Every time I tried just to do one level quickly it turned into me staying up far too late at night cursing the developers for setting their digital hooks into my brain in such a way that I’m trying not to fall asleep at work the next day. Those jerks.

Look, what I’m trying to get at here is that the game is awesome. There’s plenty of content for the $15 entry fee, it looks good, it’s easy to control, the game ramps up the challenge at a steady pace, and it was any more addictive I would have a hard time writing this because my hands would be cramped into odd looking claws from holding the controller for too long. I had more fun playing this than many full priced retail titles I played this year.

The Scores
Modes: Very Good
Graphics: Great
Audio: Above Average
Controls: Classic
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Classic
Originality: Bad*
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Classic
Miscellaneous: Amazing

*it is an special edition of an already existing game after all.

Final Score: Great Game

Short Attention Span Summary: Joe Danger is a great way to end 2011 or a great way to begin 2012. It is pure fun.