Comic Jumper: review

  • Format: Xbox 360 (XBLA)
  • Unleashed: October 6
  • Publisher: Twisted Pixel Games, Microsoft Game Studio
  • Developer: Twisted Pixel Games
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.twistedpixelgames.com

With its first two releases, developer Twisted Pixel has carved out a unique niche for itself as the creator of games that are as entertaining as they are challenging. Their latest release, Comic Jumper, sticks to that model, but also offers players a smorgasbord of additional content, making this XBLA title great value.

Players take on the role of Captain Smiley, a modern day action comic hero who finds himself without a publication. So he—along with his sidekick, Star, who is actually stuck to the Captain’s chest—are relegated to the pages of other comics, where they serve as stand-ins, hoping to make enough money to one day buy their own title. This premise allows for one of the most intriguing elements of Comic Jumper: the game’s various comic book-inspired design themes. Throughout the game, players will enter a Conan the Barbarian-inspired comic, a Japanese manga title, and a classic-era science fiction comic. Each of these has been created with expert hands and is delivered with a unique suite of art and music assets that are immersive yet distinct.

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Captain Smiley isn't so smiley anymore...for a variety of reasons.

The variety and attention to detail within each of these unique comic environments might have been sufficient enough to carry Comic Jumper. But Twisted Pixel was obviously not content to simply suffice. Instead, they created a base of operations for Captain and Star that players can explore in between missions. Here players can interact with characters from the game, view their stats and leaderboards (fast becoming a hallmark of Twisted Pixel titles), and even demo or purchase other Twisted Pixel titles. The base also serves as a place for the Captain to upgrade his abilities and unlock collectibles like developer interviews and avatar items. All of these goodies provide significant replay value. But what’s more, they demonstrate Twisted Pixel’s increasing skill at making their players feel like part of something more than just a video game. The inside jokes and self-referential breaking of the fourth wall that permeate Comic Jumper create both an “indie vibe” as well as a window—as ridiculous as it may be—into the minds of the developers themselves. It’s reminiscent of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and there is no doubt Twisted Pixel will soon have a similar cult following behind them as a result.

This is not to suggest that production value is the only stand-out in Comic Jumper. The gameplay is also a good deal of fun, if at times a little trying. Comic Jumper is predominantly a side-scrolling action shooter and platformer. However, Twisted Pixel has created as much an homage to games as to comics by incorporating mechanics from the likes of Galaga, Asteroids, and other arcade classics. It helps to break up what could be some very monotonous run-and-shoot gameplay. Even changing the scroll direction to be right-to-left in the manga section is a neat touch.

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Comic Jumper has many...um..."attractive" design elements. ROWR!

It bears comment, however, that Comic Jumper occasionally features some severe difficulty spikes. This was a trait of Twisted Pixel’s last title, ‘Splosion Man, as well. At that time, it could be thought that the occasional increases in difficulty were design errors or, at the best, coincidence. But there is no doubt Twisted Pixel meant for Comic Jumper to cater to the hardcore gaming crowd by making the game sometimes excruciatingly difficult but then encouraging competition and persistence through the inclusion of leaderboards.

But players will continue to return to Comic Jumper, either out of love or addiction or hard-headedness. Regardless of the reason, Comic Jumper will continue to provide value for a very long time. And when players have had their fill, they will be looking very forward to Twisted Pixel’s next offering.

8/10

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Written by MarkP

I am a 32 year-old father of three–twin boys age 6 and a one-year-old baby girl. Gaming is a fundamental part of our family life. We game together. We talk about games together. We shop for games together. But we also each like different things. My preference is for shooters, action games, and RPGs. I have a degree in English. When I’m not playing games, I’m reading or writing.

One comment

  1. Well, I can say that Comic Jumper’s success was an unexpected surprise for me! I previously thought that the humor and endearingly blatant shattering of the fourth wall might be traits that spice up an otherwise clunky action game, but I’ll have to take another look at this game. Twisted Pixel is doing great things with the XBLA.

    Excellent review all around; it has my interest piqued!

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