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?
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.
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.