Joe Danger is like that independent movie that ends up being better that any Hollywood film could ever hope to be. With less hands touching the game and changing things, you end up with a game that is just pure fun. With obvious influence from Excitebike and Trials HD, Joe Danger ends up being better that most bloated budget games could ever dream of being.
Joe Danger is a difficult game to write about. It’s not particularly confusing or difficult to describe, it’s just that I am not really sure what needs to be said about it. It’s a good game, great even, and certainly receives my recommendation, but how do I elaborate on that? Let’s give it a shot.
Four guys one game
Joe Danger comes from new developer Hello Games. There are more letters in the name of their studio than there are people working there, but they could have fooled me. Four people worked together to create Joe Danger, but the quality and overall fun factor of Joe Danger rivals the productions of studios that surely have well over 40 people working for them.
The fastest way to describe Joe Danger is to call it a modern Excitebike with a whole bunch of neato extras. The way I like to describe it though, is Trials HD without the blistering difficulty.
If he had a Ph.D. he would be Dr. Danger
You take on the role of Joe Danger, a literally fallen stuntman trying to make his way back to the apex of his death defying leaps. He used to be a household name, and he plans to be so again. The story isn’t really important. There is a little bit of descriptive exposition about Joe’s predicament before visiting the menu screen, but after that, it’s all about the stunt racing.
As alluded to earlier, you will immediately recognize the Excitebike and Trials HD influence upon Joe’s first test drive. You control Joe and his bike from the side scrolling perspective as you boost him over jumps and pull off all kinds flips and stunts. The side scroller perspective is perfect because Joe really comes off more as a platformer than a racer. Along with jumping from ramp to ramp, there are also things like springs that launch you straight up. While in the the air you have full control over Joe, which means you can be racing along, hit a spring, get launched in the air, and carefully maneuver yourself left to right to land onto a small platform. It makes absolutely no sense, but it is a complete blast.
Racing in a racing game? That’s absurd!
There are timed races and races against other cyclists, but those are just distractions between the stunt platforming and item collecting. In fact, the racing and timed bits of the game are a bit of a hindrance, and really end up being one of my few complaints about the game. Getting timed doing anything in any game can often lead to a frustrating experience, and Joe is no different. The timed courses end up being goals reserved for the obsessive and can be skipped. The races against other cyclists are more or less required to finish the game and unlock all of the courses, and though they do feel like classic Excitebike, they seem a bit out of place in the Joe Danger universe.
More levels than you could throw a stuntman at
Levels are plentiful, and are set up with objectives. As an example, you may enter a game that asks you to find all the hidden items, grab all the collectible stars, land on all the targets and beat the level in under 50 seconds. Each one of these objectives can be tackled separately or at once. You can do one playthrough where you grab all the stars, do another run where you beat it under 50 seconds, and so on and so forth. The only advantage to tackling multiple objectives at once is that you have to replay the levels less and you can move on to the next level faster.
Restarting and replaying levels are both things you will be doing often in Joe Danger, which is why offering the option to instantly restart a level without any loading with a push of the select button is a godsend. Thank you Hello Games. I can’t imagine playing the game without the option. Well I suppose I could -- the number below would just be a lot lower.
Build your own impenetrable stuntman death trap!
Along with the regular campaign of stunts and races, there is a also a robust set of tools to build your own levels. The way these tools are introduced to you is rather clever as the tutorial is implemented into the single player campaign. There are a few levels in the campaign that require you to do some simple track editing editing in order to move forward. Turn a ramp to face the correct way here, or move a spring jump a little closer to those stars. It’s all very simple and easy to figure out. A level can literally be created in a few seconds, and sent out to your friends for sharing. There is no way to share your level with the entire Playstation Network Little Big Planet style, but that is totally forgivable as there are plenty of levels offered to you from the developers. You won’t find yourself demanding more for quite some time.
It’s not all puppies and roses, but there are a lot of puppies and roses everywhere
I have to admit here that I am reaching a bit far for this complaint, and it really comes down to personal preference and really does not hinder the gameplay in any real way, but I am not in love with Joe Danger’s chunky aesthetic design. I like the bright colorful setting, and the random unexplained mole that offers you brief tutorials, but Joe himself is kind of squat looking. As I said, it doesn’t hurt the game, but I thought you should know, just in case you don’t like playing as chunky looking squat dudes.
The only other real complaint I can offer is that sometimes the physics can be unpredictable. There were occasions where I would duck under a hurdle, and two out of ten times Joe would hit it, get knocked off his bike, and I would have to restart. It’s not too big of a deal as restarts are plentiful and quick, but it was just a bit of an annoyance since, to my eyes, I was doing nothing different on each attempt.
Joe Danger is the perfect example of a downloadable title. It’s fun, infinitely replayable, and 75% cheaper than most discs you would buy in a store. I really had to stretch to find anything to complain about with Joe Danger, and the few complaints that I was able to find, really do very little to hurt Joe Danger as an entire experience. If Xbox has Trials HD, the Wii has Excitebike and Playstation has Joe Danger, I think it’s pretty obvious who one the sidescrolling stunt racer race.
It’s Joe Danger by the way. He won, in case there was still any confusion.
Final:8.6 / 10