Developer: Hello Games / Publisher: Microsoft Studies / Played: Xbox 360 / Price: 1200 MSP ($15) / ESRB: Everyone [Mild Fantasy Violence]
As we approach that time of year where there’s a slew of great games coming out and not enough time to play them all, you may easily overlook Joe Danger 2: The Movie. I’m here to assure you that this game serves as a fun break from purging the world of zombies and dealing with annoying skags.
Despite the “movie” mention in the title, there’s not much story in Joe Danger’s world. After defeating Team Nasty and showing off his Evel Knievel skills in the first game, you earn the good graces of a Hollywood movie director who hires you as a stuntman for the “biggest action movie ever.” This is enough to establish the game’s premise: using your stuntman skills to race various vehicles across crazy film sets.
The basic mechanic of Joe Danger 2 is that you ride different vehicles through a course and try to get to the finish line. What happens in between is the fun part. It’s more than just racing, as the courses bring some platforming elements into the mix as well as objectives like stopping missile launches. How you get to the finish line can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. It’s never just a straight line, as obstacles constantly shift into your path that you must duck under, jump over, use nitro to bypass, etc. You can also perform stunts between all that to earn more momentum for your nitro.
The vehicles you operate are constantly changing. They range from mine carts to jet-packs to skis to the traditional BMX bike. At one point you have to operate a unicycle. This unicycle is not fun. Thankfully, it’s not something that frequents the game, as the rest of the transportation modes provide much more fun and variety to the gameplay.
As mentioned above, the course is never static. Objects within the environment are always changing and getting in your way, and it’s your job to find the most efficient and fastest way around them, while still concentrating on impressive moves and collecting items for high scores. The courses were usually short and fairly simple to get through as the levels steadily progress. Though, there were times it felt the game depended more on memory and reflexes than skill.
At some points in order to progress from one set to the next, you have to collect enough stars to pass that checkpoint. It’s not often you’re stuck without the proper amount of stars to move forward, but when you do get to that point, it’s probably in a level you were having troubles with to begin with – disliking a certain vehicle’s mechanics most likely being the culprit. Thus, having to retry that level to move forward might be a little discouraging. Still, this thankfully didn’t happen too often, as courses (again) are passable after you get familiar with them.
For those who are interested in beating their previous scores: Once you complete a level, that level is automatically saved online. You can then try to do it over and over in order beat your high score by competing against your ghost. Because, you know, beating up ghosts is always a good pastime.
VISUALS AND SOUND
The music in Joe Danger 2 is lively and delightful, even down to the pause menu (it sounds like you’re in the middle of an old film intermission). As for the visuals, all the settings are very vibrant, bold, and constantly in motion. The interactive sets for the movie even pay homage to the classics like Indiana Jones. The cartoony feel of the first Joe Danger game is still alive and well in its sequel; Hello Games knows its audience well enough to not stray from what works.
When you first start off, the game throws plenty of action your way, possibly too much. This, of course is something Joe Danger is known for, but it takes some adjustment. What doesn’t help your concentration is the voice of the director who brought Joe to Hollywood constantly chattering in your ear.
The man never shuts up.
The director is always shouting, reminding you to jump and duck when obstacles are coming your way. Sometimes it does more harm than good, as you get distracted by his annoying yell, trying to decipher what he’s saying, and then SMACK – you hit something you were meant to vault over. At least the animations for when Joe gets thrown off his vehicle are hilarious, though I sometimes feel for the guy…he’s just trying to make a name for himself after all.
Joe Danger 2 has one of the simplest level editors around, and it’s refreshing that you can now share the levels you create with your Xbox LIVE friends.
The game has local multiplayer, where up to four friends can race on the ever-changing maps. Winning the race isn’t the true objective: it’s who gets the highest score. Getting first place does give you many points, but you can also compete by doing a lot of tricks along the way or collecting the D-A-N-G-E-R letters and stars littered everywhere. You also have the option to punch people to gain an edge – and for me, violence is always welcome. Unfortunately the game still has no online multiplayer, which drags down its overall replayability.
Joe Danger 2: The Movie manages to keep intact the original aspects people adored of the first game. It’s fun, easy to pick up for any newcomer, and something to play when friends come over. It’s also a nice little distraction when you want something that’s fast-paced yet demands less attention than a triple-A game might require. For those who love challenges and complete a level only to think of ways to complete it with a better time and score, this game is for you. Though there is still no online multiplayer and the director needs to learn the phrase “silence is golden” (or meet my roll of duct tape), it’s still a sequel worth applauding.
8 / 10