Developer: Twisted Pixel Games / Twisted Pixel Games, Microsoft Game Studio / ESRB: Teen (Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor, Language, Suggestive Themes) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $15.00
Delivering (intentional) comedy in games has never been easy. However, the team at Twisted Pixel seems to have nailed the formula. The Maw, ‘Splosion Man, and their latest, Comic Jumper, are all dripping with hilarious writing and great personality. But it takes a lot more than laughs to make a well-rounded game. This is where Comic Jumper falls short. The game’s repetitive nature and laundry list of frustrating design decisions make the otherwise enjoyable experience a chore to play. And that, my friends, is not funny.
Comic Jumper hits all the beats you’d expect from a Twisted Pixel game: a zany premise, goofy characters, and a whole bunch of funny. You follow Captain Smiley and his loud-mouthed, chest-embedded partner, Star, as they side scroll their way through four distinct comic worlds. Smiley’s comic series (The Adventures of Captain Smiley) has been cancelled and in order to get back on his feet, he must guest-star in three other comic books with three distinct story lines. Nanoc the Obliviator, a watercolored, fantasy world where Smiley must search for the missing protagonist, Nanoc; The Improbable Paper Pals, a 1960’s style comic in which Smiley helps to defeat a feminist bent on destroying all the men in the world; and, of course, a black and white manga entitled Cutie Cutie Kid Cupids.
Comic Jumper’s two main protagonists, Smiley and Star, are often the strongest source of the game’s self-aware, breaking the fourth wall, sense of humor. Whether it be Star cracking jokes about the game’s check point system or how Smiley just spent an entire level beating up women, there’s plenty of laughs to be had.
Comic Jumper is a 2D, side-scrolling beat ‘em up (and shoot ‘em up, for that matter). Shooting with the trigger and aiming with the right stick, you’ll grind through an almost obnoxious number of enemies that spin and shoot at you from all directions. Aside from a few choice, perspective-switching sequences (like surfing on a robot babe down the side of a building), don’t expect a lot of variety. Comic Jumper maintains its repetitive nature throughout.
It really ceases to be funny once Comic Jumper‘s bedlam of poor game design becomes overwhelming. For one, there’s no way to regain health. This in and of it self, is odd, but not necessarily a bad idea. However, couple it with an unforgiving check point system and it’s grounds for some serious frustration. All too often I found myself committing suicide as a means to acquire health. In fact, you should expect to die a lot. The game sports a very old school level of difficulty that doesn’t necessarily blend well with its humor.
Comic Jumper is confusing to me. On one hand its “old school pound you in the ass” difficulty feels very intentional. However, it’s also game that tries to be funny. There’s a disconnect there. Hearing the same one-liner twenty times because it’s your twentieth attempt on the same section of a level really puts a damper on the humor. As it stands, Comic Jumper is Twisted Pixel’s weakest outing to date.