The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Critics and players alike often laud indie developers for
their dogged pursuit of unconventional ideas and their willingness to forgo
commercial success for the sake of an artistic vision. While JazzPunk certainly
has no shortage of style and creativity, the robot-infused spy adventure game
has more in common with a Mel Brooks screwball comedy than anything you would find
in the Smithsonian. I'm glad Necrophone Games doesn't take itself too
seriously, but even if you buy the so-bad-it's-good premise, Jazzpunk's production
values are a drain on the entertainment.
Wackiness pervades the adventure. Even though your spy-based
mission objectives are simple and straightforward (tail a subject, replace a
target's briefcase with a duplicate, etc.), each level is loaded with random
activities, mini-games, and absurd interactions. Over the course of the game, I
helped a frog hack a coffee shop's wi-fi signal, played a pizza-themed zombie
video game, threw popcorn at annoyed theater goers, had relations with a sex
robot, photocopied my butt, and called up Satan from inside the Soviet
consulate – and that was just the first level.
JazzPunk's sense of humor has all the sophistication of a
carnival funhouse, but the sheer oddity on display had me clicking on every
object and character to see what they would do. Despite all of the bad computer
puns and corny sight gags, Necrophone's kitchen-sink approach throws so many
jokes at you that some are bound to hit. I had my share of chuckles and even a
belly laugh or two, but much of the game feels like it's weird for the sake of
being weird. I would have liked to see JazzPunk explore some more elaborate
comedic scenarios (like the villain's final series of challenges), but the
overwhelming simplicity of the game design limits the humor to mostly one-off
gags, which get old after a time.
JazzPunk's production values speed up that process, and are
downright grating. The simplistic visuals have a passable charm, but other
aspects like the barebones animation and public domain sound effects (fans of
the Wilhelm Scream are in for a surprise!) just feel cheap. The voice work is
especially terrible, and the robot effect applied to characters doesn't hide
the fact that it sounds like dialogue was recorded over a webcam. I get what
JazzPunk is going for – I'm well-versed in B-movies and games that are
hilariously awful – but at some point bad just becomes bad again, and the game tiptoes
down that line with the grace of a hippopotamus.
Playing through JazzPunk only takes a few hours, but complaining
about this game's length would be like complaining that you only got to spend four
hours in a Spencer Gifts. It's more than enough time to be submerged in JazzPunk's
style of humor, and the poor production values ensured I was ready for air
by the time credits roll. Play it for the novelty and the rapid-fire assault of
jokes, but don't be surprised if most of them miss the mark.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.