Quick Look: Jazzpunk

Vinny infiltrates the Soviet consulate with the aid of pigeon-scented perfume. Then things get weird.

Drew Scanlon on Google+
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Jazzpunk Review

5
  • PC

Jazzpunk is beautiful, beguiling nonsense.

It's a rare, but fantastic thing to find a game that feels like the result of a singular artistic vision. To find one that also happens to be a genuinely comic vision is like tripping over a unicorn. Playing Jazzpunk, from developer Necrophone Games, was like tripping over a unicorn who just happened to share my particular appreciations for goofy puns, technological ephemera, and Saul Bass. This is a clear and coherent vision of absolute nonsense, a work of pure absurdism glued together by a consistent, deadpan delivery and a perfectly curated visual style. It signals from its opening minutes precisely what's in store for the player, yet still finds ways to surprise and delight you through moment after moment of concentrated ridiculousness. Put more succinctly, Jazzpunk is probably the funniest game I've played in a long time.

Jazzpunk is one serious acid trip of a game. The good kind, I mean.

In it, you are Polyblank, a sort of freelance spy for an agency that runs espionage jobs for just about anyone, it seems. Your shifty drunk of a boss feeds you Missionoyl pills to send you out on assignments that always sound like spy game boilerplate on paper, but descend into complete and utter insanity almost instantly upon your arrival. Describing that insanity is challenging, because so much of Jazzpunk's comedy comes not from individual conversations or situations, but from the breakneck pace at which it fires off the stupidest, most unpredictable happenings it can muster. Think of the rhythms of comedies like Airplane! or The Naked Gun, but with a far more brazenly psychedelic bent.

What's impressive about Jazzpunk's unusual brand of comedy is that it actively lets the player participate in the nonsense happening around them. Funny things aren't just said and done in front of you. You are invited to poke and prod at every strange piece of this world until every ounce of funny has been extracted. In some respects, Jazzpunk resembles something like Gone Home, or Blendo Games' Thirty Flights of Loving. It's more about exploration and interacting with the world than straight-up task achievement. Each chapter of the game has specific objectives that must be met to proceed--steal back tech stolen by the Russians, acquire a cyber-kidney currently embedded in a mark, steal a briefcase from a vacationing target, and so on--but just going straight for those objectives misses the larger point of the game.

In the first mission, I spent nearly 30 minutes just talking to the many crazy idiots that populate the world, performing bizarre side jobs for them, uncovering unseen minigames, and trying to touch every single touchable object to see what strange thing would pop out of it. What does pop out could range from one of a long list of peculiar lines of dialogue, to a playable, matrimonially-themed first-person shooter called Wedding Quake. Jazzpunk throws non sequiturs at you from every which way, and does so at such a rapid clip that there's scarcely ever time to process what you've just wandered into.

And yet there is, astonishingly, a cohesive feel to all of this. Throwing a million silly gags out every which way is no surefire way to create successful comedy, but Jazzpunk manages to keep things unpredictable while retaining a sense of pace and rhythm. There is a consistency to its delivery, an unexpectedly focused style that makes all this more than just a bunch of thrown together funny-sounding words and visuals. Its aesthetic is coherent, if entirely odd, mixing together Cold War-era pop culture imagery with belligerently delivered spy movie tropes, and characters who all look like gender designations on restroom signs. It's all completely nuts, but in an extremely, amazingly specific way.

Whatever Jazzpunk lacks in complexity, it more than makes up for in white-hot weirdness.

Perhaps because it involves the player so heavily in its punchlines, Jazzpunk mostly keeps things very simple. Those minigames? Never terribly difficult, nor deep. Those mission objectives? Usually quick and easy to accomplish. Also, you can't lose the game under any circumstances. That simplicity prevents any joke from being kneecapped by frustrating gameplay, but it also makes progressing through it a breeze. Playing with an eye toward finding every gag will probably take just a little under three hours, but it's not too likely you'll find all of them on your first play through. I happily went through Jazzpunk a second time, and found at least a half-dozen things I'd completely passed by the first time around. Even more importantly, I didn't mind playing through the jokes I had already seen a second time. Even without the surprise factor, they were still funny. That's a mark of any great comedy, regardless of what medium it originates from.

To describe any more of Jazzpunk would be to its detriment. It's best experienced unawares, so that the full weight of its weirdness can be imparted without the burden of expectation. Suffice it to say I think just about everyone should play Jazzpunk, though I'll concede that its specific brand of humor might not jive with everyone's sensibilities. Frankly, you can watch just about any two minutes of Jazzpunk and probably know right away if it's for you or not. Every individual gag is its own bizarre thing, yet still feels like an accurate encapsulation of the greater whole. It takes a strong, creative, thoughtful comic voice to pull something like that off. In Jazzpunk, Necrophone Games has demonstrated that it has that voice, and it deserves to be heard.

Alex Navarro on Google+
77 Comments
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Posted by MooseyMcMan

I really should play this game.

Moderator
Edited by StraightGrizzly

I gotta build a PC

Posted by Askherserenity

Don't think there's ever been a game to make me laugh out loud this much. Fantastic! Great review, Alex!

Posted by mbdoeden

Well, my Friday night is sorted then. Thanks Alex, well written as always.

Edited by RangerTaffles

Yep, I'm getting it now.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

Hell, yeah Alex

Posted by Nightriff

So glad this was reviewed. I was instantly sold while watching the QL yesterday and look foreword to playing this on a night shift at work sometime and just enjoy the humor and stupidity of this game. Can't wait.

Posted by rmanthorp

I'M SO READY!

This is my weekend game for sure.

Moderator
Posted by SharkMan

hell yeah

Edited by Bicycle_Repairman

well this review makes it sounds like a 6/5 or a 120% on meta-critic.

Posted by HammondofTexas

well this review makes it sounds like a 6/5 or a 120% on meta-critic.

Or a 27/10 on IGN!

Edited by BeachThunder

"Nonsense" seems like you're really selling the game short. From what I've seen it does seem to make sense in its own coherent way. For example, the fly-swatting part was great humour, it set things up as normal, then built on it in a surprising way. Family guy has many examples of nonsense, such as flashbacks where arbitrary things pop up that have no relation to anything else.

TL;DR: the game seems more well thought out than just a series of "LOL SO RANDUM XD" jokes strung together. Maybe I'm wrong though, as I've only seen the QL.

Anyway, I suppose I should give this a go, seems like something that people will definitely remember when it comes time for GOTYing.

Posted by Ravelle

Can't wait to hear him talk about it on the morning show.

Edited by EuanDewar

Im about a half hour in and I adore it. It's so fucking entertaining.

Edited by TheManWithNoPlan

I can't wait to play this! The humor looks like something right up my alley. I ended up watching more of the quick look than I probably should've, and this definitely seems like a game that should be experienced first hand.

Posted by mrsmiley

I actually stopped watching the quicklook after 15 minutes due to being immediately sold on this game. I found it odd that I couldn't pre-purchase it yesterday, but I will absolutely be picking it up today! Thanks for the review.

Posted by benfoldsone

I thought brad said on the QL it was available for Mac, PC, and Linux?

Posted by bybeach

Good to see you (Alex) have a quality game to review, rather than honing your sardonic writing talents on another subpar to failed entree. I read Alex's review, but I have already been waiting to download JazzPunk from the first five minutes of Vinny's QL. I'm not starved for playing material right now, I finally got around to Dishonored that Pat so favored. The art style for that game has gone from disliked to honest. Also The Wolf among Us has nice art style and 80's vibe I am stuck in. But just a few minutes and a few favorable words sold me on Jazzpunk.

That said, I value this review, and cannot feel anything but positive that it is a well regarded game.

Posted by nomtank

@benfoldsone: It totally is available for Mac, PC, and Linux.

Edited by MormonWarrior

TL;DR: the game seems more well thought out than just a series of "LOL SO RANDUM XD" jokes strung together. Maybe I'm wrong though, as I've only seen the QL.

I think in the context of the review Alex's use of the word "nonsense" is sort of a synonym for "absurdity." It's well-thought-out and kind of silly and bonkers, not just random crap like Family Guy.

Also, Family Guy sucks, so I'm glad it's not like that. :)

Edited by GaspoweR

OKAY I'M ALL IN, SON, ALL IN ON THIS I'M GONNA PLAY THIS SHIT.

Man, I just finished The Banner Saga and maaaaaaan is that game's story a BIG DOWNER. I need this.

"The Banner Saga?... More like BUMMER SAGA."
-Gaspower, GiantBomb.com MMXIV
Posted by RoBear

Something tells me this game would have been in Ryan Davis' top 3 games of the year.

Edited by Aviar

Definitely picking this up this weekend!

Posted by wibby

Sold!

Edited by elfinke

Great review, wonderful quick look. Can't wait to play it.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

The quick look was enough, really. I need to play this game at some point.

Posted by civid
Posted by NorseDudeTR

Chiming in like a motherfucker with all the rest here, that is one fun to read review.

Posted by Fobwashed

Alex is right. Humor in game is super hard. This game has it in spades.

Checked out first level. Game is amazing. Must ration it out to not overwhelm -_-;;

Edited by beard_of_zeus

Someone send me a good computer so I can play this game, it looks amazing!

Posted by tonyboom

Outstanding review, Alex. After reading the first few paragraphs, I quickly bought this ludicrous game. This sounds like a great break from Dark Souls...

Edited by tourgen
Posted by BaneFireLord

Saw the original trailer, thought it looked like LOL RANDUMB XD garbage. Watched the quicklook and was sold the instant the "wine cellar" gag happened. Fastest aboutface of opinion I've ever experienced.

Posted by RetroVirus

I bought this based on the first 5 minutes of the Quick Look. Excellently written review, Alex.

Edited by OwlBoy

So awesome that this is on Mac and Linux right out of the gate.

Posted by ShaggE

This game is so, so good. Wedding Quake really stands out in particular. It could have been a completely forgettable gag, but it's actually a pretty fun little shooter that could totally be fleshed out into a full thing.

Rare is the game that can actually get me to laugh out loud. There are a bunch of funny games, but it's usually more of a silent "Yes, that is funny" reaction. In this, the metal detector minigame alone got three good, audible laughs out of me.

Posted by AuthenticM

Alex reviewed a good game ! This must be good for his mental health. :)

Posted by OldGuy
Edited by LarryDavis

This game has references to Seijun Suzuki and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

game of the year 2014.

Posted by konig_kei

Who gave you permission to review something good? I'm telling Jeff!

Posted by AMyggen

Need to get this ASAP. Thanks for tge review!

Posted by JimiPeppr

I can confirm all that has been said here.

Posted by Dark_Lord_Spam

more well thought out than just a series of "LOL SO RANDUM XD" jokes

thought it looked like LOL RANDUMB XD garbage.

You know, I read that exact derogatory phrase on the internet about 30 times more often than I see an example of the humor being derided.

Posted by PlasmaMachine

[Adult Swim] Games are just on a hitting streak in terms of solid PC gems. Sure their first two games were really just upgraded versions of their flash games (which were good under their own merit) but they're slowly building a strong resume for an indie publisher.

Posted by benspyda

There's some really great goofball humor in this but it starts to get old about 2/3rds in. Well it did for me anyway.

Posted by H8RAID

Good review Alex, well written. I'll have to check this out.

Posted by BobBarker

The 2600hz/Captain Crunch reference came on screen I couldn't contain my glee for a reference I thought no one would ever make. So many references, so many.

Posted by edeo

This game wasn't on my radar at all til now.

Posted by GermanBomber

Great review, Alex. I'm having a blast with this game. The whole Wedding Quake thing was my personal highlight so far.

Fuzzy nipples in Nepal, I repeat, fuzzy nipples in Nepal.

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