Joe Danger: Special Edition Xbox 360 Review

January 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Xbox 360, Reviews & Features, Xbox

Publisher – Hello Games – Developer – Hello Games – Genre – Action – Players – 1-2 – Age Rating – 3+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3

Joe Danger was unquestionably one of the highlights of downloadable games in 2010, and certainly one of the best all round games of that year. The game, which combines dangerous motorbike riding with platforming, was originally released on the PS3, although Hello Games have seen sense to expand its market by releasing it on Xbox Live Arcade. The wait has also been worth it, being that this version also features some rather substantial additional content.

Joe Danger’s storyline is merely there because Hello Games (a very small team that has grown since the release of the PS3 version) probably thought that there should be some sort of excuse for all that dangerous motorbike riding, although, being one of those suicidal daredevils, Joe didn’t actually need an excuse. Anyway, the daredevil rider was involved in a serious accident (the game doesn’t show it, but I suspect that it would have happened with exaggerated physics) that ended his career, although you just can’t keep a good risk taker down and Joe is once again back in his bike saddle for a glorious comeback. I can’t believe I’ve wasted so much of my time in regards to a barely existing plot, so let’s move on to more important things.

Joe Danger, then, is a nice mixture of stunts, cartoon and bouncy physics, speed and skilful air control. The stunt manoeuvres add points to your score, and wheelies and endos allow you to combo through an entire level, resulting in an overall score to be proud of. Stunts also increase the boost bar, in which, when full, you can blast into action anywhere you see fit, and combine this with the air control, which allows forwards and backwards movement whilst in the air, and a jump button, that allows for massive double jumps if timed correctly, and you have a game where experimentation and skill are both key. This is particularly apparent in the early moments, when you are just getting a feel for the game and what it expects from you.

Joe Danger’s single player structure is one that works very well indeed. You can unlock new levels by obtaining stars, exchanging them to gain access to said levels. How do you earn these stars? By completing requisite tasks within each level. Yes, they’re dangerous tasks, if you’re wondering.

The best thing about the structure is that some of the tougher tasks can be ignored for stretches of the game, leaving you to attempt the tasks that you actually have the nerve to face at that moment in time. But as the game wears on, things do become all the more frustrating – levels are more intimidating and you may have to go back to earlier stages in order to attempt some of the tasks that you had previously left ignored.

So, what exactly does it expect from you? Quite a lot really. Completing each task rewards you with a gold star: some have you picking up coins and/or stars (blue mini ones) as if you are Mario on a motorcycle, others have you aiming to precisely land on targets, collect letters in order to form the word DANGER, find hidden gold stars, and you’re even encouraged to combo right through an entire level, amongst a few other tasks. Some stages have you being able to do one or two of these things, while the longer ones devilishly throw the lot into the pot. For some, the urge to complete as many of these tasks as possible in a single run through on any of these levels will be strong: scoring big points and smug, personal satisfaction.

Levels are presented in batches, and to unlock the next set you’ll be racing against AI rivals. It’s all enjoyable enough, mixes things up a little, and a well placed punch can send an opponent tumbling from their bike saddle, although racing is not the strongest element of the game by a long shot.

The overall level design is impressive and grows more challenging as you unlock more stages. There’s a real sense of Joe Danger being a platformer on a motorcycle – bouncy springs, nasty spikes, conveyer belts and other obstacles see to that. As a game, Joe Danger also takes the trial and error approach as, at times, it’s almost impossible to know what Joe is going to jump or ride into (those oversized mousetraps have caught me out more than a few times). For me this isn’t a problem, it’s a simple case of gaining a feel for each level and then remembering where the obstacles and objects are, learning to approach them with caution as well as in a specific manner on each retry (pressing the back button will instantly return you to the most recent checkpoint). I would be lying to say that I was never frustrated, though, as Joe Danger’s difficulty can be hellish when you have your eye on overcoming a particularly tricky task, but it’s always hellish in a fun and happy way.

This Xbox Live Arcade version has a number of tweaks (faster loading times, new characters etc), although the most significant addition is The Lab. The Lab is basically some extra, albeit shorter, single player levels which add a fair chunk of extra play time to the game. The Assault Courses, which appear at the end of each tour, are also really tough and frequently call for all your Joe Danger skills.

This version of the game also introduces Pro Medals, in which are awarded to you by completing all the objectives of a select level in a single run. You really are a pro if you manage to achieve this, and even more so if you manage to earn all 25 of them.

Other than the basic single player mode, Joe Danger also has a create mode as well as split screen for two player. The create mode occasionally appears in the single player mode, in which you are tutored as to how to delete objects as well as how/where to place them. When you really get your teeth into the sandbox mode, you’ll soon learn that the level creation tool is simple to use but powerful enough to give you some very satisfying results. Completed levels can then be shared with friends (it’s a tremendous shame that they can’t be downloaded and found by a total stranger) and used in split screen multiplayer. Speaking of which, the split screen multiplayer is limited to races which is rather disappointing – in no way do I feel that the racing is the best part of the game, its fun but it’s also the most basic and least enjoyable portion of the package.

Visually, Joe Danger is colourful, charming and attractive. True, it doesn’t even attempt to push the hardware, but when the overall look is so uplifting and colourful, most simply won’t care. The music is also very chirpy, although, as there are few tunes in there, it sadly becomes repetitive over time.

Joe Danger has the depth to appeal to the core gamer, but there’s also a simplicity and structure that will be striking to the masses as well. There’s certainly nothing to be concerned about in regards to longevity either, as Joe Danger’s level creation tools, multiplayer, and the urge to better personal scores (and the scores of others locally and online) will have those who fall in love with the game playing for days, hours, weeks and months to come. This Xbox Live Arcade version is also the one to own, and, if you loved the PS3 version of Joe Danger as much as me and are eagerly awaiting the true sequel, there’s definitely enough in the Special Edition to warrant a second purchase. For players new to the charms of the game, well there’s even more of a treat.