by Chris Priestman
reviewed on X360
Leaping Amongst The Clouds
When the news got around to me that the indie developers Twisted Pixel had announced their next game, Comic Jumper, I made sure to reserve a space for it on my hard drive. Being a big platformer and puzzle game fan, I adored their first two games released in 2009 on XBLA; The Maw and Splosion Man. This next title promises a shift to a shooter-based game type and was actually an idea that had been circulating the team even before the release of their first title. Having established a reputation for themselves as innovative and highly original game developers, hopes were high for Comic Jumper. Many were expecting it to be announced as the studios masterpiece, especially with its focus on pop-culture, fast action and comic book style. I carried my hopes high but as always I reserved my complete judgement until I had played the game in full.
From Panel To Pixel
Being influenced by the colourful world of comic books, Comic Jumper has a stunning visual palette. In places the graphics are not always up to scratch, but for the most part the visual style carries its quality by means of stylish exaggeration. The game is spread over four different comic books and adjusts the style accordingly. Captain Smiley is a superhero within his own comic book, along with his sidekick Star. The banter between these two characters, which are in fact voiced by the same actor, provides an entertaining dialogue throughout the game. The basic premise of the game is that Captain Smiley’s comic has lost its readership, and has been cancelled as a result. By using a capable machine, Captain Smiley jumps to other comic books in which he guest stars in order to earn enough money to relaunch his own series again. Throughout his journey, Captain Smiley also earns an understanding of comic book history, helping him to become a better character.
Inhabiting the comic book worlds is a variety of characters that take the typical roles as either villains or heroes. However, these roles are merely perceived as jobs by the characters, keeping in line with the game's reflective nature. If you are partial to teenage humour, popular culture references and comic book sensibilities then you will love the characters and accompanying narrative of this game. The developers brand the game their own by including themselves within its reality. Live action invades the game world at times adding a fresh and modern feel to it. One of the highlights of the game is being able to call in the development team to clear the screen of enemies by throwing their best martial arts at them. It’s not entirely original, but these touches make the game seem quite clever and enhance the relationship between the player and the game. Everything within the game seems self-assured with a notable confidence in its presentation. The script and visual elements were clearly allowed a lot of time in production and this does show in those areas.
Mutton Dressed As Lamb
Despite the initial self-confidence in Comic Jumper, it is clear that the effort was not balanced across all aspects of the game. Ironically, the smile is wiped off of your face as soon as you take control of Captain Smiley. The animation within the game does not match the quality seen in the cut scenes. Even worse is the sluggish response time. This is only the tip of the iceberg though. Essentially, the game is a side scrolling shooter. Its influences include retro games like Contra but you would not likely spot this. The game lacks the diversity that is standard within this genre; basic elements like power-ups are completely absent. Exacerbating this experience is the way the game forces you to play. This consists of holding down the fire button whilst occasionally jumping and climbing. Despite travelling across the different comic books, the only thing that changes is the visuals. The enemies come in a variety of skins, but mechanically they are identical. It’s a bland excuse for gameplay. Even the bosses faced at the end of some levels fail to offer much differentiation apart from their personalities. The only real positive that can be drawn from the gameplay is that the controls are simple to use and easy to grasp.
Great style and innovative use of breaking the fourth wall. Well done script and a lot of extra content for your money.
Terrible gameplay mechanics and repetative level design really damage the overall product.