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Review: Joe Danger

John Funk | 17 Jun 2010 13:00
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Joe Danger is fun. Joe Danger is a lot of fun. There we go, review over - see you next week, everybody!

What's that? You want more? Oh, fine: Joe Danger is a downloadable PSN title from indie studio Hello Games, in which you play a washed-up stuntman eager to get back in the proverbial saddle and prove his claim as the true Master of Disaster. It's also, as I mentioned above, a ton of fun.

At first glance, Joe Danger appears to be a racing game - and at some points it is - but it actually has far more in common with a platformer than even the zaniest of kart racers. Yes, your aim is to get Joe from the left boundary of the course to the right boundary, but in doing so you'll be going up, down, left, right, and even forward and backward through the game's three lanes of depth.

Part of what makes Joe Danger work so well is how the entire game is built off of the concept of building awesome complexity off of simple building blocks. To help Joe return to his former glory, you'll be entering different events and surpassing challenges, which award you gold stars that you use to unlock further events. The challenges start out simple: Land on all the targets, collect all of the little trinkets, spell "D-A-N-G-E-R," etc ... but then they get more complex. Can you land on all the targets and cross the finish line in a tight time limit?

What's interesting is how the different challenges make you approach the same level in different ways. If you're just doing a speed challenge, you're trying to squeeze every last millisecond out of the level by doing endless tricks to fill your boost meter, but if you also have to simultaneously hit all the targets you need to pay attention to where you're heading. And if the challenge is to find a hidden star, you approach the level slowly and meticulously, looking for hidden ramps and jumps that could be the key to your goal.

Joe Danger's controls are great - the trigger buttons put on the gas and brake, tapping the shoulder buttons does midair tricks (which can be comboed into each other for more points), the face button controls things like your boosting, jumping and ducking, and your punching (for the versus races). It's all very responsive and intuitive once you get the hang of it, and makes repeatedly failing at some of Joe Danger's tougher challenges less frustrating - I never felt that I was working against the controller.

Joe Danger also has a sandbox mode that lets you freely edit and create your own tracks in real-time: Pause the game, enter creator mode, and drag and drop objects wherever you want. If you have the time and the will, you can create tracks as complicated as any in the Career mode, though it isn't as easy as, say, building a full track in ModNation Racers. It's fun if not a game-seller, and it's always a hoot to make a series of deathtraps for poor Joe.

Speaking of ModNation Racers, it really is a shame that Hello Games doesn't make it easier for gamers to share their creations. You can trade your racetracks with any of your PSN friends, but if there was an easy way to publish (and download) tracks I wasn't able to find it. Another thing that Joe Danger doesn't do so well is variety - with a few exceptions, most of the events seem to be set in the desert, and some varied scenery would have been nice. It would also have been cool to have more items that actually change the game instead of just being "this is a jump, this speeds you up, if you touch this you start over."

But these are minor nitpicks: Joe Danger isn't very deep or complex, but it is a ton of fun and you'll almost certainly get $15 worth of play out of it. It's easily one of the best PSN games on the market.

Bottom Line: Great controls, nicely varied (and genuinely challenging) goals, a good sense of humor and cartoonish physics make Joe Danger a real treat to play. There's no online multiplayer, but split-screen play is great. It's just a shame that there's no real easy way to share your maps, but for what it is, it's well worth its $15 price tag.

Recommendation: It's no God of War or Final Fantasy, but if you have $15 lying around, Joe Danger is worth the money to keep you entertained as we enter the summer doldrums.

Game: Joe Danger
Genre: Action
Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Hello Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 3
Available from: PSN Store ($15)

John Funk kinda felt bad for putting Joe through so much pain. But it was funny, so it's okay.

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