Joe Danger PS3
Man, I am getting seriously fed up of reviewing brilliant video games these days. With the glaring exception of Prison Break: The Conspiracy, I don’t think I’ve reviewed a bad game all year. And now here’s the lovely men from Hello Games, refusing to give me a break by putting out a game that’s kind of like a more fun version of any game you’ve ever played with motorbikes in it. Thanks a lot, guys.
So, Joe Danger, then. At a glance, comparisons to likes of ExciteBike or Trials HD seem inevitable. Luckily, Joe Danger does enough to differentiate itself from its peers. Sure, you drive a motorbike from left to right, avoiding obstacles and adjusting your weight forward and backward to avoid slowing down or crashing, but there’s a little more to it than that.
The game’s opening menus are a little unhelpful and confusing at first – imagine the menus from DiRT 2, but less obnoxious – but after a few levels you’ll begin to get your head around how Joe Danger flows. For the most part, reaching the end of one level unlocks the next, and you can sort of get by for a while without really putting any effort in. Then, eventually, you’ll reach a level that requires stars to unlock it. You earn stars by completing certain objectives during a level – these range from collecting a series of little blue stars dotted around, or doing the entire level in one continuous stunt combo, while other stars are simply hidden in the levels themselves. You can re-do a level as many times as you like in order to uncover all its secrets, and doing so is a lot more fun than you’d imagine. It does get a bit trial-and-error at times – plus, you’ll find yourself doing a dry run of each level before really attempting to earn the stars – but it’s no more irksome than in Trials HD or the brilliant Trackmania games, as getting yourself whisked back to the last checkpoint is only a button-press away.
What helps is that the in-game posters and newspaper cuttings occasionally refer to Joe as “The world’s most determined stuntman!” – the result being that you can’t help smirking to yourself a little when you reset to the last checkpoint after smashing your face on the same obstacle for the fiftieth time. This is probably where Joe Danger‘s real strength lies – unlike Trials or Trackmania, it’s actually got a sense of humour, and a lot of charm. These things always count for a lot in games – not least because they’re still so rare – but they’re especially valuable in a game where your lack of skill frequently makes you want to headbutt the TV. Trials HD veterans will know exactly what I’m talking about.
On top of all this, the game features a comprehensive level editor, which allows you to send your creations to anyone on your PSN friends list. Sadly, there’s no vast online repository of user-created levels to download, but it’s hardly surprising considering the amount of work involved in such a system, and the fact that Joe Danger was made by four guys. Talented though they are, I’m sure they’ve got better things to do than sit around deleting levels with giant penises crudely built out of ramps all day.
Multiplayer is offline-only, which is also kind of a shame, but then the short-lived and fiercely competitive nature of each race makes it more suited to local play anyway. Much as you might want to, you can’t punch your friends over the internet. Believe me, I’ve tried.
All in all, Joe Danger is everything that’s great about indie games on consoles. A brilliantly fun title from a small team that have managed to attain a level of polish that people mistakenly assume you won’t get in a game that only costs a tenner. You’d be an idiot to miss it, basically.
Oh, and it gets an extra point because we’ve convinced ourselves that it has some cheeky references to Hot Rod, the best film ever made.