Joe Danger: The Movie takes the pint-sized stuntman to Hollywood. VG247′s Dave Cook saddles up to see if Hello Games has struck gold once again.
Have you ever played a drum kit? We’re not talking about beating your mate’s kit mercilessly and out of time just for shits and giggles, but actually trying to hold together a coherent, layered rhythm.
It’s difficult unless you know how. Every component of the kit must be kept in perfect sync to produce a solid rythmn or else the beat falls flat, then you risk letting your band down and looking like an idiot.
That’s essentially Joe Danger: The Movie.
It’s a challenging game that throws several component layers of skill into one challenging mix. Miss a beat and your whole score run disintegrates, sending Joe’s limp body tumbling around the scenery in embarrassing fashion. Epic fail.
Destroying a big score run at the last hurdle is soul crushing, but good lord is it addictive. You’ll likely dust yourself off, hit retry and give it another crack without so much as a second thought.
In that regard, it’s comparable to the original Tony Hawk games, in that the key to nailing big scores is speed, combo variety and plenty of nail biting risk-reward stunts.
The plot sees Joe heading to Hollywood to serve as a stuntman during production of tinseltown’s greatest action flick. Each stage riffs on classic movies like Indiana Jones, The Spy Who Loved Me and an endless list of police chase films, all offering a range of stunt set pieces.
It starts with Temple of Doom-inspired minecart stages that see Joe hurtling across tracks while dodging boulders, leaping lava pits and outrunning enemy goons. An average run tasks you with reaching the end of the stage – as a bare minimum – but the game’s layers demand more than just mere survival.
To really bump your gamertag up the leaderboards you will need to survive, be fastest, hit as many tricks as you can, jump lots, and collect items strewn across each stage.
That’s a lot of component parts, but twitch gaming fans will love it when it all comes together and adds up to an untouchable final score. There are a few truths that you need to bear in mind at all times to hit the big numbers.
Stages typically have ramps, and you can hold X to make Joe duck – which is useful for getting under hazards – and release it again to jump. Once airborne you can use the left stick to spin your vehicle, as well as holding LB, RB or both to pull off tricks mid-air.
Tricking can also be activated while on the ground, and it’s essential to earning boost, which you’ll need to beat some of the punishing time limits. See what we mean? You need to be a great multi-tasker to do everything we’ve mentioned so far, and to keep your boost meter full. It can be stressful if you don’t focus.
Fail to right yourself after a jump, get clipped by the scenery or get smacked by projectiles and Joe will bail. In many instances this means you have to restart the whole stage again.
The process can be infuriating, but when you pull off a triple forward flip, while using no hands and boosting at the same time, you feel pretty accomplished once you land it perfectly.
Joe Danger: The Movie becomes mercilessly difficult once the ability to switch lanes comes in to play. An early police chase mission sees Joe riding his police motorbike in pursuit of a getaway van.
The aim is to survive within the time limit and pick up gold bars as they are dropped from the vehicle, which is easier said than done since there are cars flying at you across each of the three lanes.
You must use green switch points to move up or down a lane in order to avoid oncoming cars, and that’s all well and good, but there are a lot of cars, and it can be hellish trying to figure out a safe route through the morass of traffic.
Of course, after several re-tries you will have memory-mapped the correct traffic pattern. and a safe route through the stage so that you can cruise it in one effortless run.
Once you do that, you can go back and try to beat your time, or find those hidden collectibles you missed. It’s a harsh learning curve and there are difficulty spikes everywhere, but if feels good when you figure stages out.
Grabbing letters to spell ‘DANGER’, and collecting stars, coins, bananas and other items will unlock avatar gear and outfits for Joe, so there’s always something to drive progression.
Add to that the competitive element that comes from seeing your friends’ ghost data, and you have a game that delivers real replay value. Shaving seconds off your best time, or adding to your scores can become dangerously addictive.
Although it’s big and challenging, if you’re the kind of gamer who doesn’t like to get stressed while playing, or dislikes retrying a lot, then you may want to approach this one with caution.
It’s hard, make no mistake, but those who like a challenge need this game in their life. We’ve fixated a lot on the game’s difficulty here, because it’s both part of its appeal and something that other, more casual players might want to be made aware of.
Gameplay aside, the game’s colourful sets are well-realised and really do riff on the films they’re parodying, plus the retro 1960s-style movie soundtracks are brilliant. In terms or artistry and tone Hello Games really has created something endearing here.
Challenges are also varied – from stopping a missile launch while using rocket-powered skis, to pulling off bike tricks on a mo-cap stage – ensuring that the game feels fresh throughout.
If you’re looking for a solid challenge that really does make you feel gratified once you succeed, then you should give this game a whirl. If you’re the proud owner of a short fuse or just plain dislike trial and error gameplay, you should look elsewhere.
Joe Danger: The Movie’s difficulty shouldn’t reflect on the craftsmanship of Hello Games because they’ve done a great job here. To have a game that looks so simple, yet offers so much depth and intricacy is no mean feat, and it’s this depth that will really sell the experience to many gamers.
So how about it? Do you fancy testing yourself? Then pick up Joe Danger: The Movie on Xbox Live Arcade from September 14th. Just remember to breathe and chill out when you bail for the 100th time.