The Dangers of Being a Stuntman – Joe Danger 2: The Movie Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Joe Danger 2: The Movie, developed by Hello Games, takes us into the seedy underbelly of movie stuntmen. The second game in this series by the developer shows us how, on a daily basis, these men and women need to fight giant robots, disarm nuclear warheads, or ski past roaring avalanches and do it all while looking as cool as possible.
An overall plot for this game barely exists, but one isn’t really necessary. Joe has been brought on by a movie director to do stunts for every movie on set. Joe is more than willing and soon finds himself barreling through temples in a mine cart or racing past avalanches in a snowmobile. However, because there is such a lack of plot, and because Joe is doing such outlandish things means the tone is always ridiculous and over-the-top. Delving deep into any kind narrative would only take away from the tone.
Carrying this silly tone are the graphics. The animation is slick and looks as though you warped a cartoon into 3D. The game is rendered 2.5D and all sprites are fully fleshed out, and provide over-the-top visuals. In one level Joe has to chase down bad guys on a motorcycle then dodge past giant robots, wearing a jetpack, in the next. These two events happen during the same movie. Levels are varied even within the different movies you shoot, such as an ‘explorer’ (think Indiana Jones) or police movie, and each of these different movies are their own ‘zone’.
While the graphical quality isn’t anything to complain about, the amount of assets on screen could be. There were times when there was so much happening in the background, such as roaring spouts of flame or moving traffic, it became difficult to follow what I was doing in the foreground, resulting in crash after crash. Barriers like bombs or spikes are some of the things you need to either duck or jump over, and these can be a constant form of irritation.
The problem is twofold. The first is actually seeing the obstacle because of everything else that is happening on the screen tends to obscure them. The second is a problem of sound. The director is kind enough to yell instructions half a second before you smash into the barrier, but the difference between “duck” and “jump” is slight when yelled through a megaphone. Personally, I think the director enjoys watching you fail because the warnings are never given at the right time. Combined, these two problems make dodging obstacles a matter of either godlike reflexes or rote memorization. While these two elements are a staple of this kind of game, it became frustrating that gameplay skill was, at times, put on the backburner.
Speaking of gameplay, Joe Danger 2 is a hybrid of racing and platforming (similar to games like Trials Evolution), and the level goals are varied to say the least. There is your standard ‘reach-the-end-safely’, but you also need to disarm missiles, destroy dinosaur eggs and beat up bank robbers, just to name a few. This is always done on a vehicle of some kind, and if you accomplish this goal, you will receive a star to unlock the next level.
However, you won’t always have enough stars by simply collecting the ones rewarded to you when you achieve the main goals. There are secondary objectives to complete as well, such as collecting the letters D-A-N-G-E-R, finishing the level under a certain time or finding a hidden star. Accomplishing these goals will allow you to move though the simple-player campaign.
Joe Danger 2 is at its strongest when you are actually racing on a motorcycle, minecart or another vehicle. However, the platforming sections on skis or jetpack don’t have the same tightness of gameplay. These sections don’t feel shoe-horned in, but they come close, as they feel like you are just traveling from point A to B.
When racing, you have to consider a lot: squeaking past barriers, doing tricks to raise your score, grabbing items like letters or stars and, of course, reaching the end of a level alive and well. Platforming sections feel dull by comparison. One section, when sneaking past guards on skis, was a careful plod to avoid setting off alarms. Checkpoints raised and lowered, and if you moved through one when it was down, bells would begin to ring. In theory, this might have provided a good break from adrenaline-filled sections. In practice, I found it slow and tedious; it didn’t have the fun of other levels.
Once you have a good grasp of the single player campaign you can construct your own in the game’s level editor, and share your creation online. This feature increases the replayability of the game by a huge factor. The levels other players have created are full of creativity, although some are hair-tearingly hard.
The biggest hit against the game is the multiplayer. It is local only, so while you can share created levels with friends, you all need to be in the same room to play one another. Joe Danger 2 has a few faults with gameplay, but not having online co-op is a gross oversight.
Overall, I enjoyed the silliness of Joe Danger 2. The game has solid graphics and mostly enjoyable gameplay. However, there were gameplay sections that didn’t hit as hard, or are missing entirely. If you can look past the game’s darker points, then you’ll have a lot of fun protecting a city from giant robots while doing a wheelie on a motorcycle.
Joe Danger 2: The Movie is available now on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and the PlayStation Network
Final score: 4.0 / 5.0
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