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Jazzpunk Review: Nanotubular
Writing a traditional review for Jazzpunk is a difficult task. Not because the game is bad; actually, I really enjoyed it for what it was. No, reviewing Jazzpunk is a tough, because briefly explaining what Jazzpunk even is in the first place is a challenge itself.
In order to help people understand exactly what they’re getting when they step into the adorably absurd world of Jazzpunk, I’m going to structure this review in a way that I feel is indicative of how the actual game plays. Starting the review in 5…4…3…2…1…
Jimmy Fallon: Cassidee, I’m glad you made it here tonight to tell us about this game you’ve been reviewing. So, what exactly is Jazzpunk?
Cassidee (laughing): You know, Jimmy, it’s funny…that’s a difficult question to answer. It’s…it’s a game…
Jimmy: Well, that’s a good thing. *Cue audience laughter*
Cassidee: Ha, yes. Yes it is. Yeah, it’s a game about spies, really, but it’s super comedic. In fact, I’d say it feels a like like a playable Mel Brooks movie in some respects.
Jimmy: A Mel Brooks movie?
Cassidee: Yeah, you know, Mel Brooks? He was the director of Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Space Balls, Young Frankenstein…
Jimmy: I know Mel Brooks. A little too well, actually. *Cue audience laughter* How exactly is it like a Mel Brooks movie?
Cassidee: It has a lot of that sort of randomized humor, you know? It’s silly, it’s crazy…there’s just a lot going on there.
Jimmy: Silly and crazy? Sounds great! Thanks so much for joining us, Cassidee.
Cassidee: But I…I didn’t…
Jimmy: Jazzpunk is now available on PC for $14.99. Check it out if you like Mel Brooks. Up next, The Spice Girls!
*Cassidee is escorted from the stage by two men who look suspiciously like Agent Smith from The Matrix*
JAZZPUNK PLACES PLAYER IN ROLE OF POLYBLANK, A SPY WHO CONTINUALLY TAKES ON SECRET MISSIONS, BE THEY HARVESTING KIDNEYS OR STEALING VITAL INFORMATION FROM CONSULATES. BUT THAT’S NOT REALLY WHAT JAZZPUNK IS ABOUT. JAZZPUNK IS ABOUT EXPLORATION. IT’S ABOUT THE COMPLETELY ODD AND SILLY WORLD IN WHICH IT DROPS YOU. WHENEVER ONE IS PLACED IN A NEW ENVIRONMENT, THERE ARE A LITANY OF OBJECTS THAT CAN BE INTERACTED WITH, PEOPLE THAT CAN BE SPOKEN TO, AND ACTIVITIES WITH WHICH TO ENGAGE. THOSE WHO CHOOSE TO ONLY OBEY THEIR PRIMARY DIRECTIVES WILL FINISH THIS GAME IN A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME. TRULY, IF YOU ONLY FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS PLACED LITERALLY BEFORE YOUR EYES, YOU HAVEN’T REALLY PLAYED JAZZPUNK AT ALL.
Chapter 1: Infiltrate the Soviet Consulate
I heaved a big sigh, wiping the bleariness from my eyes. I hate those pills. They always make me feel groggy, like I’ve just woken from a drunken stupor. I’ve told the director this a thousand times. But does he listen? No. Never. That self-inflated fool only ever hides behind his desk, primping his mustache. And is there any sort of HR department that I could contact with a complaint? Yeah. Right.
Shaking my head, I looked around, snapping out of my own wallowing in negativity and self-pity. After all, I had a job to do. This consulate wouldn’t infiltrate itself.
I began to step toward the building in a quick, decided pace, feeling tiny against its titanic structure that stretched until it very nearly touched the stars themselves. Colorful details adorned the top of the building, reminding me of candy.
Flashing lights caught my attention then, blinking importantly out of the corner of my eye. Curious, I turned and started walking, moving quickly toward them, forgetting my mission in favor of investigating. I had to see them. I must.
I raced up the wooden walkway over the street next door to the consulate, forcing past a pedestrian so quickly that he tumbled to his death over the side, emitting a bloodcurdling scream as he pitched over the edge into the street. That scream…I had heard it before. But where?
I caught up with the lights finally, catching sight of the marquee of a movie theater. A movie theater! Memories of the movies began flooding my mind, taking me back to a simpler time of popcorn and soft drinks and sticky seats. Elated, I made my way toward the entrance.
My hand reaching for the door, I froze when I heard a soft ribbit behind me. Turning, I saw a small frog working on his laptop, looking at me with inquisitive yellow eyes. He asked for my help. How could I say no? Casting aside thoughts of the theater, I agreed.
Suddenly, I was transported to another time, another world where I hovered above the ground, watching as the frog rested on the sidewalk directly in front of a busy street. I moved. The frog moved with me. I was in control. I directed his movements with practiced precision, helping him obtain the item that would allow him to access that Starbux wifi password he so desperately wanted. He thanked me profusely, then asked if I would be willing to help him some more. I refused, appalled that he would yet again ask for my help mere moments after I showed him my initial generosity. Frogs really are the worst kind of people.
Confessions of a Game Critic
Today I played Jazzpunk. Kind of. I don’t know how much you play Jazzpunk vs. experience Jazzpunk. It’s a game chock full of secrets to be discovered, jokes to be laughed at, and references to be seen. It’s strange, but endearingly so, like an aloof stand up comic that seems both relatable and completely alien.
I made a point of exploring practically every nook and cranny in each of the environments that I explored, never wanting to risk losing out on a single hidden joke. During this time of blatantly appealing to my obsessive side, I encountered a number of minigames hidden within the game itself, including takes on classics such as Frogger, Space Invader, Street Fighter, Quake, and even Fruit Ninja.
I’ve encountered games that have done this before, and there’s a definite right way to integrate these shots of nostalgia that won’t feel desperate or ham-fisted. Jazzpunk does this right, because the game’s nature itself is silly and random enough to support it.
Strangely, there are just as many references to film as there are classic video games, including some of Hitchcock’s greats The Birds and Psycho, James Bond, and even a parody of The Shining that involves pizza zombies. Yep. Pizza. Zombies.
It all sounds strange, I know. That said, it’s more than just an odd spectacle. There is a core game behind Jazzpunk that is, quite literally, impossible to fail. It’s easy and guided in its linear structure. But that’s not necessarily a negative; again, Jazzpunk isn’t so much about the game as it is about experiencing the world in which you find yourself. The joy is doesn’t come from mastering mechanics; it comes from having the opportunity to throw soup at streetside ramen vendors, push several bodies over ledges, and watch as people morph into flies whenever you hit them with a fly swatter.
Anyway, I’m enjoying it so far. It’s a nice break from the darker stuff I’ve played recently, anyway. I’ll write more about it tomorrow.
Comedy in Criticism: Vol 1
Comedy is an enigma. What is funny to some can quite frequently cause others to take offense, and people might be more apt to enjoying the absurdity of a random moment, while others will scoff at slapstick and wish for a dryer, more sophisticated form of jest.
This phenomenon is displayed to perfection in the 2014 game Jazzpunk. Developed by Necrophone Games, Jazzpunk is a supreme example of how comedy could be used effectively in a medium that so often fails to actually derive so much as a chortle from its audience. Yet, its sharp, merciless, and randomized comedy that blends slapstick with the nostalgic might come across as strange and alien to those who do not have a comedic palette that favors its gestures. As such, one should take note that what is funny to some may not appeal to others. It is recommended, therefore, that research is done prior to the purchasing of the game in order to assure that people will indeed enjoy it as much their peers have said they will.
And now, a haiku about Jazzpunk:
Talking. Colors flash in the noise.
END OF REVIEW. CONTINUE? YES/NO