E3 2012: Joe Danger: The Movie, the complete package

So, I got to meet a few of the guys behind the Joe Danger series, Hello Games. I uncomfortably admitted to them that I had only played the demo of the original game, and that I played it quite a lot and enjoyed it. I’m sure that led to them thinking, “So, yeah…why didn’t you just buy the game?” They didn’t actually say that (thankfully), but they did go on to explain that the sequel to Joe Danger would not be repeating past mistakes. In the original Joe Danger, the level design changed, but ultimately you could probably just play the heck out of the demo and feel like you got a full experience. This time with Joe Danger: The Movie, Hello Games wants to make sure that people are always asking themselves, “What’s next?”, each time they complete a level. They don’t want you to ever feel like you’ve seen everything.

To start, there are a variety of vehicles that will appear as you play through the different movie scenes. There’s a jet pack, motorcycle, bike, jeep, skis, jet ski and unicycle. Each will control slightly differently. For example, the Jeep is a lot heavier, so it can’t do flips as easily. Though I had significant time with it, I didn’t get to try out the skis enough to tell you how they differ from the rest. Each vehicle is used just like it would be in a movie. You are essentially performing stunts for a movie, and once you are done with a set of scenes, you will see a montage of your gameplay being used in the “movie”. There’s apparently a tank and a robot to pilot as well, but I wasn’t shown those during my extensive E3 playthrough.

I found the unicycle to be one of the most challenging and satisfying to use. It mostly plays exactly like the motorcycle you know and love, but you’ll have to keep an eye on Joe to make sure you’re balancing properly. I had a few hilarious failed first attempts as I realized how often I would need to make sure that Joe was still on the unicycle (sorry, Joe!). For those who know the Tony Hawk series, it’s kind of like balancing on that, except harder, because you have to watch out for all kinds of obstacles and death jumps at the same time. The unicycle can also get a burst of speed, except that this burst can be directed, even propelling the unicycle upwards. Daring Joe Danger fans are sure to find a lot of challenge in maximizing the potential of the unicycle.

The only vehicle I didn’t like was the jet pack. There just didn’t seem to be enough depth to controlling it (though maybe later levels take more advantage of it). You can propel yourself upwards while controlling your left and right movement, but the stunts felt a bit stunted as well. Another button allowed the jet pack to forcefully thrust downwards to collect items and bounce off of springs.

Aside from the vehicles, this Joe Danger looks to have a lot of variety in the level design. I played through a chase sequence (well…I played through it several times unsuccessfully) that had me following an armored car. I had to get close enough to it to smack it and decrease its health. While this was drawing my attention, I had to duck under things, jump over spikes, and dodge traffic. Dodging traffic is interesting because it all runs on a set track. This means that the car you’re dodging may be in a slightly different place than your previous attempt depending on how fast you’re going. So, while there are some things you can memorize, the cars are something that you’ll have to react to in real time. There’s no telling how many times it took the developers to get through it, but I shamefully retried this level several times before completing it. Another chase sequence had me throwing newspapers at someone while dodging around traffic.

There were regular stunt levels that Joe Danger fans are familiar with too, and there are still a lot of reasons to replay them. Players will encounter jumps, springs, hard-to-reach areas, and some level-specific mechanics such as snow avalanches. If you happen to grab a banana bunch, you will be turned into a monkey and given the opportunity to grab all of the just-revealed bananas to complete the bonus. There are also hidden stars, and sometimes specific items that players will have to destroy as they go through, such as dinosaur eggs. Time attacks are still available as well. The types of challenges in a level are actually level-specific, so it’s nice to see that they’re not just tacked-on challenges.

Joe Danger: The Movie really ought to get players in a gaming frenzy with all of the level design options available. You can even do things such as forcing players to grab a certain amount of items you placed in a certain amount of time. The track’s layers can also be messed with. Items are not just placed; they can also be rotated and used in unusual ways. Items are placed in real time as you are trying out your level, so you can easily test trick jumps, making for a great user experience. The level designer allows players to create their own levels and then share them with friends. In addition, players will be able to see the most downloaded levels, developer favorites, and their friends’ levels, all neatly grouped and easily accessible. Players will have to start with a blank slate, or with a level-editor-created level. I asked, and no you will not be able to alter levels that exist in the single-player mode.

This isn't a picture of the multiplayer, but the backhanding is there in full force.

As for multiplayer, there are a few options. Players can actually play side-by-side in the game without affecting each other (a sort of single-player social mode). Players will be able to race against friends’ ghosts to visually see that best time, and these times will be updated as they are created. Then there’s an actual multiplayer mode that pits four players against each other in a level, racing for top score. In this mode, if you’re on the same plane as another racer, you can be backhanded; Hello Games was all too happy to show me that addition. It’s okay though, I got them back the next chance I had.

Once you feel like you’ve mastered the game, the time trials will having you thinking about the levels in different ways. The levels have different layers, and if you’re good enough, and you think outside the box (or just watch replays), you will find that there are very unique ways to blow through sections of a level. I was watching one of their seasoned developers breeze through a level, past several obstacles and loops. I was only left with a puzzled look on my face.

Joe Danger: The Movie is a lot of fun, and don’t let the cartoon-like graphics throw you off. This is a game that even the most seasoned veterans can be challenged by. It’s a sequel to a great game, and it looks like it’s improving in all of the right ways. With all of the different vehicles on hand to keep you on your toes, level-specific game mechanics such as avalanches and chase sequences, awesome characters to choose from (cupcake head, a knigh, chicken suit, and tons more), a load of multiplayer and level-editor content, tough challenges, and online competition, Joe Danger: The Movie is looking to be a must-have game.

Joe Danger: The Movie is currently an Xbox 360 exclusive. However, it will probably find its way to the PS3 sometime in the future. You will possibly be seeing it released near the end of Summer 2012, and if not then, the Fall. The team is also working on an iOS version of the game called Joe Danger Touch

Ryan Southard

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it’s new or it’s old, as long as it’s awesome, he’ll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard

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