Joe Danger The Movie: review

  • Format: XBLA
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Hello Games
  • Developer: Hello Games
  • Players: 1-4 (offline only)
  • Site: http://www.joe-danger.com

Joe Danger was brilliant. The XBLA exclusive Special Edition was a little bit more brilliant. Joe Danger The Movie is… a little bit less brilliant. It will fill you with joy, and make you scream curse words that are built on equal parts determination and enjoyment; leaping from the lofty heights of the original, this sequel makes an impressive landing – though not without spraining its proverbial ankle.

Newcomers to the world of the Forsyth-chinned stuntman need to understand that just one word is the beating heart of the Joe Danger games; fun. They look fun – bright, cartoony graphics that instantly win you over with their charm (including puns in the background for those un/fortunate enough to spot them). They sound fun – cheesy bites of speech, briefly dominating the tongue-in-cheek pseudo-dramatic soundtrack. Most importantly of all, of course, they play fun. The deceptively simple control scheme can – and will – begin to fight you at a moment’s notice, as you struggle to keep up with split-second hazards and suddenly realise that, as with comedy (and alighting from an escalator while drunk), timing is everything.

In the first game, Joe was limited to his motorbike, with little reason given for how or why he was being launched from gigantic springs and backflipping through the air between deadly metal spikes (not that any reason was needed). In The Movie, the loosely-formed premise is that he’s filming a series of stunts for various films. This means themed collections of stages (such as snowy and prehistoric) but also, more importantly, a variety of vehicles. His trusty stunt bike is still present, and the quad from the Limited Edition’s Santa DLC makes a return – but Joe also gets to play with new toys such as a mine cart, skis, a BMX, a skidoo, and – wait for it – a jetpack.

The jetpack, unsurprisingly, provides the greatest deviation from the gameplay of the original. You’re given the freedom to move in any direction you please with silky-smooth controls, pretty much at your own pace excepting any relevant time limit. That might sound like the jetpack levels are easy and, well… they are. It’s impossible to not have fun piloting a jetpack (such is the human condition) but nonetheless, it’s the ‘phew, a guaranteed easy level’ vehicle.

Easy, yes, but still huge fun and THERE ARE ROBOTS.

Even when you’re going all Thunderball with thrusters stuck on your back, Joe Danger is still all about the stunts. The more you stunt the higher you score, and the longer you can string stunts together the greater your multiplier. When using any vehicle other than a jetpack however stunts are often essential for progressing through a stage. Forward or back flip to elongate and/or direct your jump; boost off a ramp to extend your trajectory; duck and jump to avoid being split in two/blown up; and so on. Performing stunts also serves to fill the meter which the aforementioned boost draws from, essential to meet certain time limits or make certain jumps.

The ultimate aim of the game is, again, to earn stars. Think of Mario’s stars, and you’ll already have a good idea of how it works. Each stage has multiple stars to earn. Perhaps there are one or two hidden ones to collect, and/or you need to win a race, and/or you need to pick up all the collectibles before time runs out, and/or you need to keep a stunt combo going throughout the entire stage, and so on and indeed so forth. Here, however, is where JDTM struggles to keep up with the original. Simply put: it’s much easier.

It’s no cakewalk. There will certainly be stages where you’ll crash again and again (and, indeed, again) and only finally reach the finish line after 50+ restarts. There’s a small selection of stars that require you to master the controls completely in order to earn them, juggling mastery of speed, observation and timing simultaneously. Most importantly of all, this game is never anything less than superb fun. The bottom line is however that, while there are still a few stars we’ve yet to win in the original PSN release of Joe Danger, we drained JDTM of stars completely in around ten hours. That also includes over two thirds of the Pro Medals, rewards aimed at JD veterans for earning every star in one run in certain stages.

It’s a thorny issue. Having a good time is always more important than finding the developers have put up as many roadblocks as possible on the road to success. JDTM is rarely quite so satisfying as its predecessor however, simply because the majority of challenges it presents are less taxing. The most easily identifiable exception is anything involving the unicycle, a criminally underused vehicle that requires you to constantly ensure Joe (or any of the unlockable characters) is correctly balanced, and lean forward or back accordingly whilst heading with great speed toward the next instakill hazard (often immediately followed by another).

Icy what you mean. Snow problem! What’s this I’m locking the door with? ‘Ski. Ahem.

The level editor makes a triumphant return, better than ever. Not only does it now seem much more generous in regards to the length and item population of your stages (and it remains as user friendly as ever), the much-needed option to share online is now included. There are already some great submissions available, too. Unfortunately levels are presented as one cumbersome list, with no LittleBigPlanet-style filters or search function. Not that a search would necessarily help – level names are, disappointingly, randomly generated with no scope for pesonalisation. Multiplayer is similarly semi-improved. You can now play with three friends rather than just one but, bafflingly, online play is still a no-go.

This is a great game well worth your Microsoft Points. Cleaning it of awards will take newbies a respectable amount of time, and everybody no matter their experience will have a wonderful time. Those who know the original inside out will welcome the improvements and additions – and be aware of the slight drop in challenge – most of all.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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