canuckeh's Comic Jumper (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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Someone's strange, dark childhood fantasy

Gah! I can’t decide whether or not I idolized or merely tolerated Comic Jumper. If you judge a title on the sole merits of its gameplay, then this is the dog’s bollocks. It’s a not-particularly-great shooter that is rife with annoying filler. But yet the overall experience is just so damned strange and amusing that it almost has to be played by anyone that can appreciate a good South Park episode. In trying to write this, I found myself flip-flopping in tone between “this game is a flaming shitturd” and “this game flings flaming shitturds at your mom.” After the realization that I had replayed half the levels and unlocked all of the concept art, I had made up my mind. Seriously, who goes out of their way to unlock concept art? What the hell, eh?

 Remember when we thought Comix Zone was awesome?
 Remember when we thought Comix Zone was awesome?
I suspected that Captain Smiley was the kind of dream hero that someone would’ve invented in grade school during moments of not-studying. The kind of character that only that one person and their friends would find amusing and would never become the star of their own marketable franchise. And I was right, according to those unlockable concept art pieces I wasted too much time getting. According to the game story, Captain Smiley’s comic series sucked so much that children chose going to class over reading it. After the first issue fails, Smiley becomes an indentured servant to developers Twisted Pixel (the game treats the Fourth Wall as if it were the Berlin Wall), and must star in other comic series to raise funds for a franchise reboot.

From there, the game gets progressively more insane. Full-motion video of random people that may or may not work for Twisted Pixel are littered all over the place. You deal with the cast of the Captain Smiley series, like the talking star on his chest. Or Brad, the Muscle Beach-bound commando with an army of well-endowed womenbots. Brad has his own theme song, an honour he shares with the game’s stats screen. And how you can visit an arcade and freely purchase The Maw and Splosion Man. Maybe the one off-putting aspect of the game for me was the excess of Twisted Pixel-narcissism. Okay, great, you put yourselves in the game, cute. It does get a tad annoying after awhile.

From there, the game enters cold-blooded parody territory with its different areas. The first sect of levels take place in a loincloth-heavy spoof of Conan the Barbarian, complete with an Arnold soundalike. Then there’s a cel-shaded, very colourful (in many ways) take on Silver Age comics. The very strange values that censors upheld (and didn’t uphold) get a very stern lampooning. Then the game flies off a cliff with two middle fingers held at the sky as Captain Smiley enters the world of manga. Every anime stereotype you can think of (and some that you didn’t want to be reminded of) is brought to the forefront with nil shame. And it is glorious!

As I’ve mentioned before, the issue with Comic Jumper is that you do have to play it. The base game is a dual-joysticks shooter with platforming. You’ll run from one side of the screen to the other, a lot of enemies appear and you’re expected to extol justice on them. It can get a little bullet hellish at times with the amount of flying lasers slowly darting in your way. Worse, the checkpoints can be on the unforgiving side if you haven’t been upgrading Smiley’s health.

 Depicted: Smiley showing dominance over the female race.
 Depicted: Smiley showing dominance over the female race.
And none of the shooting ever feels gratifying. It takes way too many shots to down a single enemy, and this issue worsens if you don’t make a note to purchase attack upgrades. The seconds it takes to down a single Bradbot is a complete flow-killer. The game attempts to mix up the shooting with assorted on-rails sections, ala Panzer Dragoon, Space Harrier or whatever rail shooter you may have mad love for. But it doesn’t alter the fact that the game’s action feels sluggish as all hell.

There are also a very small handful of very typical quick time events. And a handful of supremely clunky melee sections where you have to alternate between the “punch one guy” button and “punch two guys on each side” button. And the game has some decidedly creative boss fights that I would have a much higher opinion of, if I weren’t forced into repeating so many of them.

At the same time, I was able to successfully grin and bear all of the nonsense. Perhaps it was because the back and forth banter between Smiley and Star warmed the lower regions of my heart. Or how the game finds the means to get progressively more and more offensive. Or how even the individual bits of concept art, videos and such include charming and humourous backstory.

But there is something about Comic Jumper that spoke to me. Or at least spoke to me in a manner most vulgar. Because even after finishing the game, I was still revisiting some of those supposedly awful levels. So you’ll have to ask yourself if tolerating a dull video game is worth some pretty great gags. Or how about this; if you liked the ending to Splosion Man, you should probably get this game.

4 stars 

Other reviews for Comic Jumper (Xbox 360 Games Store)

    WHAM! BAM! F***! THAT'S A FINE! 0

     CAPTAIN SMILEY AND STAR ESCAPING AN EXPLOSIVE PANEL!!!!!! Twisted Pixel has been doing very well with their first two original games, The Maw and ‘Splosion Man. But with their third outing based on the many eras of animation styles filled with constant humor and very challenging yet fun gameplay, they have made Comic Jumper the best in their collection so far. Following superhero Captain Smiley and his chest-embedded sidekick Star, their short lived action comic book series has been a...

    8 out of 8 found this review helpful.

    Heavy on self-adulation, painfully short on gameplay. 0

      Indie developer Twisted Pixel has made quite an impact upon the XBLA scene, showing early promise with the underrated 2009 downloadable title The Maw, and rocketing to superstardom with last summer’s excellent ‘Splosion Man.   ‘Splosion Man in particular was noteworthy for mixing excellent and inventive gameplay with a depraved and wickedly delirious sense of humor.   This, combined with pitch-perfect challenge that followed a punishing--yet fair--learning curve, made for one of the be...

    7 out of 7 found this review helpful.

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