Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley (Review)

Decided to rewrite my initial review, since it wasn't very professional. Or good. Ahem.

Comic Jumper is the third game from Twisted Pixel, and much like their other games, it is extremely silly, very funny, wonderfully imaginative and ultimately flawed.

The basic premise of the game is quite simple. You play Captain Smiley, a comic book character who's title is so bad it's almost immediately cancelled, and have to make guest appearances in other comics so you can earn enough money to relaunch your own. It's a little more complex then the other games by the developers ("Help an everything-eating creature to the end of the level" and "constantly blow yourself up to reach the end of the level" respectively), and the game does have a surprisingly strong plot, which is apt, given the subject material.

As you might expect, the humour in this game is brilliant. There's an awful lot for the game to make fun of, from the star on your costume being a pawning fan of your arch-nemesis 'Brad', to Captain Smiley complaining about how it's bad for his image to be shooting female robots, right down to mocking the people who write in to the 'Reader's Mail' bit of a comic. This is, without doubt, one of the funniest games ever made, and it's surprising how far the darkly-rich writing and snarky comments carry things.

Gameplay-wise, the whole thing feels like Contra, with you spending most of your time running from left to right (or in the last few levels, right to left) while shooting in the direction you point the right control stick, occasionally switching
from the standard 2D-platforming-rendered-in-3D to run through a short 3D-on-rails section. When you're not shooting stuff, and you're almost never NOT shooting stuff, there's a few incredibly basic fist-fighting sections, but these are brief and lacking in any real depth, and you'll quickly be back to holding down the right trigger and desperately trying to avoid the bad guys.

Which leads to the games biggest problem - the difficulty. This game is incredibly difficult, and not in a good way. Instead of challenging you with enemies that attack in different ways and with various strategies, the game just has the same half-dozen enemies throughout, and just throws more and more of them at you. This quickly becomes absurdly frustrating, as you are constantly trying to move left and right while jumping just to avoid getting hit by any of the dozen projectiles on screen at any one time while also attempting to shoot the enemies throwing the projectiles. You're moving in one direction and shooting in the other, and it's nigh-impossible to do this for long until you get hit. And when you do get hit, it inevitably throws you off and leads to you getting hit again, and before you know it you've lost a third of your health, which the game stubbornly refuses to let you regain without dying and going back to the last checkpoint.

This 'artificial difficulty' - ie: not creating a challenging and intelligent difficulty curve, instead just throwing more stuff at you in the hopes of simulating one - is the biggest problem this game has. It becomes even worse in the later levels, when the stages are in black and white, meaning that you can't even see the projectiles half the time. The end result is a game that will often have you putting the controller down and doing something else for a while just so you can calm down. It's that frustrating.

One of the other problems with the game is that it doesn't really take advantage of the concept as much as it could. The idea of 'jumping' into other comics is an intriguing one, but aside from your own, you only visit three other types of comic - a
Conan-style adventure, a return to the Silver Age of comics and a backwards-running excursion into Manga territory - and these don't quite have the imagination to stay interesting across all three levels you spend in each. Two of the levels in both the Conan and Manga comics are almost identical, which is somewhat disappointing. While there's some clever ideas, the game really could have benefited from one or two more styles, or maybe just a little more variation in the styles they do have.

In the end, there's an abundance of ideas in this game. The problem is that they focused too much on the humour and story and not enough on the gameplay. The end result is a game that's mired down by repetitiveness and an unforgiving difficulty. It's still worth trying, but it could have been so much more, and that's one of the worst things you can say about a game. Still, Nordya was hot, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment