Few games just feel right as soon as your hands grasp a controller, but it didn’t take long to learn that developer Hello Games had a knack for crafting familiar-yet-refreshing titles with polished controls. The UK-based studio burst onto the scene with the charming Joe Danger back in 2010, and thankfully, it only took two years to be rewarded with a sequel.
Yet, Joe Danger 2: The Movie is much more than just a few new, death-defying obstacles for the aging stuntman to clear. Jet packs, unicycles and skis add an impressive amount of variety without sacrificing a bit of the brilliance of movement. It may not feel the same careening over a field of red-hot explosives on a bike as it does on a four-wheeler, but the physics behind every single means of transportation are just spot on. A bit of visual and environmental clutter brings on moments of unwelcomed frustration, but The Movie manages to pile on a heap of fun features while still maintaining the brilliant foundation that captured crowds just two years ago.
Our loveable, rotund hero, Joe Danger, has found himself with another hot gig on his plate. Due to his past success in stunt work, an “enthusiastic” Hollywood director casts Joe to perform all the stunts for a film that’s essentially overflowing with every single cinematic cliché in the book. Bridges collapse, mine carts fly over perilous gaps and explosions litter the environment. Each of the five core acts will lock you into the mindset of a new star, and while you may never woo the ladies like Indiana Jones or Ethan Hunt, you’ll surely match them in harrowing maneuvers within the dozens of scenes. A final, supplementary act puts all the skills you’ve honed over the course of the game to the test, and the allure of new challenges, optional or not, is tough to pass up.
While “action movie” is the consistent theme, you’ll rarely feel like you’re doing the same thing twice throughout Movie Mode. Unique level design coupled with a slew of ludicrous vehicles keeps you guessing from act to act, and though individual level challenges will force some players to reach for perfection, simply pushing the A button to see what Joe has to conquer next is nearly irresistible.
If you come to Joe Danger 2 with the intent to have simple fun, there’s plenty to love. But, all the sadists out there who’ve grown tired of Trials: Evolution will be more than happy with what Hello Games has concocted. Reaching the finish line in the majority of the scenes isn’t exactly something to brag about, but when you’ve conquered the sequence with a full combo, all the level’s valuable bananas and a record-breaking time, it’s pretty tough to not feel like a badass. Individual level challenges invite thrill-seeking players to add new layers of difficulty to the otherwise straightforward levels; rewarding those who take the risk with both a bevy of stars and street cred. The stars do little more than open new levels and boost your percentage of game completion, but it’s really more about knowing you could take the riskiest route and live to tell the tale.
Not all of Joe Danger’s challenges feel fair, though. The Movie is a visually pleasing title, blending bright, multi-hued environments with enough character charm to be mistaken for a classic, Saturday-morning cartoon. However, some levels get too mechanically and aesthetically busy for their own good, leading to an unnecessary amount of frustration. Obstacles faced after launching off a steep ramp or changing lanes during a busy chase scene can feel too sudden and random to predict. It’s easy to reset to the last checkpoint and take the scene from the top, but that just doesn’t make the repeated failures feel any less cheap.
Mechanics are introduced at a friendly pace throughout the scenes, yet having to manage both audio cues from the director and subtle blockages that can quickly halt a solid run transforms certain scenes into fast-paced games of mental Bop It. Sometimes you’ll twist when you’ve been commanded to pull, and that level of sensory overload is a bit jarring when thrown into act 2 or 3 and not the additional, more harrowing content.
If you find yourself frustrated with a specific level the developers came up with, you can test your own development skills by heading over to the Movie Maker feature. Similar to the first game (and other popular level-creation titles like LittleBigPlanet), Joe Danger 2 allows players to construct something magnificent out of absolutely nothing. All of the jumps, loops and career-ending traps seen in the main game are available to the player, and with the transition from building to testing the track being so seamless, it doesn’t take much time to create something you can be proud of. The true labors of love that shock even the game’s creators will take a great deal of dedication, and as of now, there’s nothing to write home about floating around the community. Yet, you can bet there will at least be one good version of Super Mario‘s World 1-1 hours after launch, and possibly even a few thousand more unique stages to keep players on their bikes.
A multiplayer feature that allows four friends to ride for both fun and a few minutes of bragging rights is a good cherry on top of this motorized sundae. Your position by the time the race is complete, along with the number of times you wipe out, determines the winner of each race. It’s pretty simple, and some online functionality would have been nice to see, but The Movie’s core mechanics are enjoyable and user-friendly enough to entertain a living room full of people for hours.
You may find yourself cursing it at times, but Joe Danger 2: The Movie is still a wonderfully entertaining racer that’s brimming with content. You’ll gasp as Joe catches big air, cheer when he twirls in the air on a jetpack and possibly even scratch your head as he transforms into a monkey after consuming some strange bananas. No matter the means of transportation or the activity taking place, The Movie finds a way to slap a wide, welcomed smile on your face.
Darksiders II was developed by Vigil Games and published by THQ. A PlayStation 3 copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.
Joe Danger 2: The Movie was developed and published by Hello Games. An XBLA copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.