Comic Jumper Xbox 360 Review

Captain Smiley is Twisted Pixel’s latest video game character creation. He’s also the star of Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley. He’s a dude that dresses like a super hero, with an emoticon face that looks like it’s jacked up on steroids. It’s no wonder he looks a little funny, the people at Twisted Pixel are no strangers to unique and amusing character designs and personalities. Take their last game, ‘Splosion Man, it featured a guy made out of red exploding matter who could blow himself up repeatedly.

Comic Jumper tells the unfortunate story of Captain Smiley and his sidekick Star – a star shaped entity with a bad attitude, attached to Captain Smiley’s chest. Smiley isn’t having the best of luck since the hero’s comic series has just been cancelled. Needing to make a living, the guys at Twisted Pixel have decided to help Captain Smiley by giving him a base of operation to get back on his feet. To do this Captain Smiley and his attached side kick must become guest stars in other comic books so that he can earn enough money to get his own comic back into production.

Being based around the idea of comic-jumping, Comic Jumper allows for some brilliantly inspired levels based around different styles of artistic approach. After the modern day tutorial level, you are whisked into the pages of a barbarian inspired comic with Captain Smiley getting outfitted with a typical warrior armour set, complete with animal fur. The art also changes as the colour palette becomes more mundane and darker.

My favourite example of comic-jumping is when Captain Smiley has to guest-star in a Japanese manga called ‘Cutie Cutie Kid Cupids’. In this specific section of the game, all the gameplay is from right to left, instead of the norm of moving left to right mimicking the Japanese reading structure. The graphics are also presented in black and white, giving the impression of being in a Manga. Even Captain Smiley gets a makeover as the game presents him in this comic as a puny looking ‘Cloud Strife’ and Star as a cute little Mario-esque invincibility star.

I think it shows that there’s something outstanding about the presentation of Comic Jumper because I’m already talking about it before any of the gameplay. Merging the different comic locations allows Twisted Pixel to really push out the game’s comedy. It’s the gags and banter between Smiley and Star that make it tremendous. They are done in a smart way with some solid writing. These aren’t dreadful jokes based around farting and so on. This is real genuine comedy material.

If you’ve got a good ear or eye then you’ll love how jam-packed Comic Jumper is with references to movies and games.  From the top of my head I’ve noticed references to Resident Evil 4, Nightmare on Elm Street, Jurassic Park and Back to the Future. I think the obvious one people will notice is the main star of the barbarian comic. He’s called ‘Nanoc’, and sounds a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Twisted Pixel have taken a lot of inspiration from older games to create the main mechanics of Comic Jumper. If you could throw Earthworm Jim, Metal Slug, Sin and Punishment, with a hint of a few old school brawlers and a snippet of those infamous quick time events into a blender, the result would be a smoothie called Comic Jumper.

It might sound like a bit too much for a game to be able to hold all these different types of genre styles, but Comic Jumper manages to blend most of them well. The bulk of the game is based on platforming and shooting, using a dual stick control system allowing you to move and shoot at the same time. Occasionally a level will switch and you’ll be playing the game more in the vein of Space Harrier, where you’re shooting at enemies in front of you while dodging their attacks. All this is going on as your character automatically runs forward.

The weakest of the different gameplay mechanics is certainly the brawling parts. There is no depth whatsoever, so it ends up being a brainless bashing of the X button. Captain Smiley will link the same 3 hit combo when you repeatedly tap the button. Thankfully these are over quickly and it doesn’t quite manage to break up the flow of the game.

At first the game eases you into a false sense of security by having a super easy first level. As you make your way through Comic Jumper you’ll find that you’ll be dying a hell of a lot. It can get difficult towards the later stages. This would have been a problem for a few players, but the game generously gives you infinite lives. You can die as many times as you like in a level and you will just be moved back to the last checkpoint.

This in turn creates a new problem, because you’ll soon start to lose some enthusiasm for the game. The gameplay itself is fine, but it never excels to be the standout point.  If this game didn’t feature a fantastic presentation, story and the witty humour then I would have most likely been less inclined to keep playing.

From playing Comic Jumper you can tell that the whole team at Twisted Pixel had one awesome time creating the game. I don’t think I’ve actually seen a game that uses the developers as an inclusion to the story. The plot actually kind of revolves around them from start to finish. The team even get in on the action as Captain Smiley can use a special ability that brings forth the power of the Twisted Pixel team.

Calling forth their help brings hands that come bashing on the screen to kill all the enemies that are visible. This isn’t rendered either. It’s strange seeing real humans merging into the graphics of the game, but you have to think that the point is that people are reading what you are doing as a comic, so it makes perfect sense.

Costing the now seemingly normal 1200 Microsoft Points, Comic Jumper is worth the price alone just for the humorous experience that the game is built around. It might irritate you or make you chuck out some swear words at the TV due to retrying sections, but at least you can look back on Comic Jumper knowing that you had one of the best comedy gaming moments of 2010.

8/10

by

Version tested: Xbox 360

Developer: Twisted Pixel Games

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Genre: Action Platformer