|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Hello Games|
|Pub: Microsoft Studios|
|Release: September 14, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Fantasy Violence|
by Shelby Reiches
Joe Danger 2: The Movie is a game about reflexes and awareness. It's a comical, farcical trip into the minds of a bunch of action-movie aficionados with an obvious passion for only the most cliché of genre elements, from avalanches and explosions to bank heists and high-speed chases. That isn't to imply, for even an instant, that the game has any semblance of plot—the levels consisting entirely of action sequence after action sequence strung together into an endless cascade of beautiful carnage—but it does provide that little bit of tongue-in-cheek context that makes the goings on all the more absurd.
You are a stuntman, one of the bravest, the sort who would put Jackie Chan to shame with his sanity-defying antics. If it's mobile, you'll drive, ride, or pilot it. Mine carts, jetpacks, motorcycles, and even unicycles all bear the fearless bum of Joe. The movie's genre? A pastiche of action classics, drawing on 1950s science fiction, James Bond, Indiana Jones, and a touch of The Italian Job. It's a bit disappointing, actually, that the acts are named after one genre or another, but the levels themselves don't really follow that theme, mixing and matching at will.
Gameplay itself is fairly straightforward. The vast majority of the levels are chase sequences, in which one trigger accelerates and the other reverses. The exception to this is the jetpack, with which one button controls vertical thrust and another quickly drops Joe to the ground, the stick serving for lateral movement. You are in constant control of Joe, regardless of vehicle, such that his trajectory can be adjusted even in mid-air without pause. This allows, with enough practice, for extremely precise antics, which become increasingly necessary as the game progresses and the objectives expand beyond simple traversal. Joe can also duck, by holding down a button, and he hops when it's released. There's also a boost mechanic tied to a quickly drained meter, which can be refilled by performing stunts (done by moving the stick and tapping out sequences of bumper presses).
Though each level of Joe Danger 2 has one primary objective, most have a slew of optional ones as well. Any objective completed will garner stars, which are necessary for unlocking further levels. Note that stars from the main campaign are separate from stars gained in the "Deleted Scenes" mode, which consists of nail-bitingly difficult skill challenges that the game demands you play if you want to experience the full campaign.
It seems so simple at first. Just dash through each level, throw a few tricks out to build up some meter during jumps, and boost along. Its cartoony visuals will entrance you and a lot of what happens on screen looks dynamic, but doesn't really affect anything. It makes the start of the game very forgiving, which is great for getting a feel for the basics. With each subsequent level, more is expected of the player. Tighter timing, quick decision-making, switching paths on the fly, catching up to villains and punching them off their motorcycles—it all starts to require intense finger gymnastics just to make it through a level with the main objective complete. By the end of the game, you'll be rapidly tapping buttons and whipping the stick left and right, toggling between triggers to carefully land Joe atop a missile before it exits its silo.
As mentioned before, the game uses a lot of tricks to keep its action looking dynamic. This ranges from background visuals and elements of the scenery breaking apart behind you to dramatic camera angles and billowing special effects. Often, though, these can get to be too much. Foreground objects might obscure an oncoming obstacle depending on when you reach that point in the level, though the obstacles also have a tendency to simply get lost, visually, in the onscreen chaos. There were occasional bouts of cursing and at least one handily suppressed urge to throw the controller, which quickly passed.
While Joe Danger 2 can be frustrating at times, especially when it feels as though a mistake was out of one's control or otherwise undeserved, it largely possesses that "one more try" quality associated with Super Meat Boy and its ilk. Objectives are varied enough to make each level its own experience and the optional stars will have more obsessive players, such as yours truly, going back through to collect those one missed on the first run-through (though it's best to collect them all at once, unclaimed stars can be collected piecemeal on subsequent run-throughs). There's no doubt that this is a finely honed, reflex-testing romp that draws on so many of the most enjoyable elements of classic Tony Hawk titles alongside more informal fare, such as Canabalt.