Jazzpunk does comedy right. It knows how to be funny, and when the jokes hit, they hit every time. This is quite possibly the funniest game I have ever played. Move over Banjo-Kazooie, get out of the way Borderlands, step off of that pedestal God Hand, we’ve got a new king of interactive comedy that, unlike these previous games, sacrifices all other gameplay elements for a case of the giggles. Refer to this Wikipedia article of games listed as “Comedy” and understand that Jazzpunk shows up all these other chumps.
Asphyxiation From Laughter
I know what you’re thinking. “Whoa dude, like, you’re telling me this game is, like, funnier than Bubsy 3D?” First of all Bubsy 3D is a bad game. Second, that game wasn’t funny. Third, you need stop saying the word ‘like.’ Finally, not only is Jazzpunk funnier, I would classify it as a carnival of hilarity. Never has there been a game that made me audibly laugh to the point of exhaustion. The surprises, fantastic writing, and the characters all make for some super-giggling times that are incredibly memorable. So fantastic are these moments that I refuse to spoil anything about them, as to see hear about a joke instead of experiencing it for yourself will destroy the satisfaction of witnessing the jokes that you stumble upon. The amazing feeling of surprise when you find a joke from something as innocuous as a trash can is like seeing fireworks for the first time.
As complex as the comedy can be, the gameplay is refreshingly simple, using a first-person view whose only actions are to interact and jump. Interactive objects will have a dotted-circle around them, and when clicked will run a scripted sequence or give you instructions. Most instructions are displayed in an obvious font hanging in the air, like a proclamation that congratulates you for finding another opportunity to laugh. There are moments where the gameplay expands a little bit, but to expose those moments is to ruin the point of the game. Put simply, walk around and find all the funny stuff, there’s plenty to find.
The art is nostalgically odd. Walking around the environments is like viewing a dream of the 1950’s, except twisted with a robotic flavor. Art pieces have cathode-ray tubes, transistors, resistors, and amplifiers that blend circuit diagrams with stark colors. The perception feels as if the developers at Necrophone Games time traveled to the fifties to abduct artists and ask them to draw what they thought the future would be. Gigantic computers, robots integrated into society, sentient everyday objects—it’s straight out of the imagination of people two generations old. As original as the art direction is, I felt really drawn to the environment to the point of finding the character designs to be very comfortable. The best way I can describe Jazzpunk‘s visual design is as a cross between the odd future of The Jetsons and the familiarity the populace of Blade Runner had with technology.
A Blemish In The Beauty
Jazzpunk does have on glaring issue, in my opinion. The first level explains really well that the more you explore, the funnier the game gets. This is absolutely true for the first level and the second to last level. For most of the game, there’s a definite limit to the jokes every time you’re searching a corner. Sure, most of the levels are downright hilarious, but the impression of being mowed by a jokes you can uncover. With each new level, the opening area might have only one joke, then the next street has maybe four. Walking through the first level, you’re bombarded with wacky situations, silly puns, and hilarious characters; then the ride suddenly ends, leaving you wandering around for more humor, wondering, “Why isn’t there more?”
The beach resort levels epitomizes this problem. While nicely populated with humor and characters, there are about 30 resort rooms that the player can enter, and only three or four rooms have anything in them. The time I spent going through each room only to find nothing in 90% of them really dragged me down; and the fact that the next level was the same, just taking place, at night really made me question the point of even having access to these rooms. In a game that supposedly rewards me for exploring, this felt like an enormous waste of time and opportunity.
Despite the parts of the game that dragged on, I still really loved Jazzpunk. It delivered on the hype I had for the game, and I can only imagine the unbridled joy a new player will feel when wandering around a distorted past (future?). By the end, I felt the game was fun and fantastic, and I promise the it will make you laugh like a madman. Look forward to seeing this on the Best Indies of 2014 list in ten months.
Legacy Score: 8
Geek Legacy’s review scores are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest possible score.
This review is based on the Steam download of Jazzpunk, provided by Adult Swim Games.
Follow Victor on Twitter @fake_brasilian to hear how he wishes to learn sign language so as to yell at a group of deaf people to quiet down.