Joe Danger: Special Edition Review
Game: Joe Danger: Special Edition
Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Hello Games
Available on: Xbox LIVE Arcade only
When Joe Danger was first released on the PlayStation Network in June 2010, the game received great reviews and both critical and public acclaim, breaking even commercially on the first day of release! Xbox 360 gamers however were left wanting, as the game was not released on the Xbox LIVE Arcade. Finally, more than a year later, Hello Games have brought Joe Danger: Special Edition to XBLA, a souped up version of the title; complete with added extras.
Joe Danger was a huge stunt-racing star in the nineteen-sixties and seventies. He drew huge crowds and lived the superstar lifestyle, however a major accident took all of that away from him and critics thought he would never perform again. We join Joe as he is determined to make a comeback from his career-threatening injury. He must start at the bottom and work his way back up, and that is where we come in, helping the lovable human crash test dummy to re-attain his superstar status.
The title remains largely unchanged from the original release, which is certainly a good thing as the title remains as compelling as ever. Visually, Joe Danger does burst out of the screen at gamers. The bright, bold visuals are definitely eye-catching and the somewhat cartoony, old-school graphical style perfectly compliments the arcade fun of the action taking place. Character models and settings are all simple, yet effective, whether the comcial-looking Joe is waving to the crowd in mid-air or eating dirt as he takes another, inevitable, tumble. The colour palette and visual style does give the game a very SEGA or Nintendo-like look, with blue skies and fluffy clouds adding to the levels, as buidling block-like ramps and obstacles litter the courses. The game is a casual arcade-style affair, so a more realistic visual style would not have fit in well with the overall atmosphere of the title. Even at high speeds, the game performs admirably and there is little loss of integrity.
In terms of sound design, the old-school aesthetic is carried on. 8-bit sound bytes activate when players pick up bonus items or attain certain objectives, all the while with irritatingly repetitive music playing in the background, how more retro could you get? When you are playing through a stage, and concentrating on completing multiple goals whilst soaring through the sky, the sound design tends to blend into the background and the limited scope of the music won’t be a major issue.
The playability of the game is what has made it so successful. The game itself and the controls play in the exact same way as the PSN release. You can jump, duck, accelerate, reverse and pull tricks. You can traverse forwards or backwards whilst in mid air, and spin the bike forwards and backwards. All of these skills need to be combined and mastered in order to make it through every stage. They remain responsive and easy to pick up, yet difficult to master.
In the same way as Trials HD, the game encourages repeated playthroughs, forcing players to learn the levels in order to complete them in the best way. Unlike Trials HD though, the levels in Joe Danger offer multiple objectives and goals to aim for. Some levels need to be completed as quickly as possible, some with big trick combos, others will require you to collect stars. The game really comes into its own when these objectives are all put together, and players get to choose how they want to tackle each level.
As you get more confident, you will go for multiple objectives in each run-through, putting together everything you have learned. Pull a wheelie before making a jump and collecting some stars in mid-air, only to land and collect a stream of coins, all before they disappear. Becomning a master at completing multiple tasks is difficult, needing you to think one step ahead of yourself at all times, but when you pull it off seamlessly, it is a sight to behold. The pace of the game can quickly change from blistering to slow and back again, and this must also be taken into account. Complete more objectives, and you will earn stars, which are then used in turn to unlock extra stages to play. Extra characters will also be unlocked as you progress, and try to beat your arch-enemies: Team Nasty! In between regular stunt races, you will encounter the occasional head-to-head race, where you must beat members of this nefarious team across the finish line in order to prgoress further in the story.
It must be said that the career mode features many extra stages to play through that were not previously included in the original release. This extends the length of the career mode, and makes for a meaty single player experience by itself, but then there is the new addition of Labs. The Labs have been put together by developers in order to test gamers and get them to learn and refine new techniques that they might not otherwise use in the main game. The five new Labs each contain around five stages, and each will challenge the gamer in different ways, and introduce new abilities. These are all short stages, but the focused objective for each means that players can hone their skills until they can perform each action perfectly (all whilst earning more stars), before taking it out to use their new tricks in the career mode. In a sense the Labs work as a tutorial of sorts, where you can experiement with tricks and techniques in short, controlled bursts.
Also included is the Sandbox mode, where gamers can now not only build levels of their own design, as straight-forward or as crazy as they like, but can also share with, and download levels from, their friends. You can use all of the features from the regular levels, and make either short intense tracks or long drawn-out affiars, depending on how much time you want to dedicate to this mode. This exchange of user-created stages does bring back memories of Little Big Planet, and althoguh the design tools are nowhere near as in-depth or creative as those seen in the Media Molecule title, this is a feature that is bound to keep the more inventive gamers out there interested in the title for quite some time.
Add to all that some split-screen two-player action, and you can either compete with or work as a team to complete a variety of race types from career mode. There isn’t as much depth in terms of objectives to complete, and the races in turn feel more linear than in single-player, but the retro feel remains, and you feel like you could be playing ExciteBike or any game of that ilk, when racing head-to-head. Unfortunately, Online play hasn’t made it into the game. This is a shame, as the split-screen action is so fast and intense, that it would have no doubt been very successful over Xbox LIVE also. Players can compete online via Leaderboards, trying to beat each others top scores, and in this sense, the game takes on even more of an old-school arcade feel.
VERDICT: That is the main strength of the game. It can be simplistic or deep. It can start to become frustrating trying to attain all of the objectives, or it can be a pick-up-and-play affair. The individual player shapes the game, to an extent at least, as the developers have provided multiple ways to complete each level. Those who prefer the precise action of Trials HD may want to play through each stage in Joe Danger whilst maintaining perfect trick combos and no wipeouts. Those who are more the Tony Hawk type will want to fly as high as they can and execute crazy flips and stunts. It can be something different to each gamer, and the amount of time you get out of it is very much dependant on what you are looking for in the game.
As such, the game could be recommended to a variety of different players and will meet the needs of most gamers lookng for some fun. Joe may have taken a while to come to Xbox 360, but it was worth the wait, despite the lack of any game-changing extra features. The Lab mode is a fantastic addition, and will help gamers pick up the title quicker and learn skills they may have missed otherwise. With a deeper multiplayer mode and more online features, the title would be a much more well-rounded package. The comeback of Joe Danger is complete and he is back on track.