Joe Danger PS3 Review

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

Some games take their inspiration from films (we regularly hear of words such as cinematic), whilst others pretend to be nothing but a game. Being colourful, addictive and having absolutely no inclination to be a film whatsoever, Hello Games’ Joe Danger is definitely the latter – a game that doesn’t try to be anything but a game.

Joe Danger’s storyline is merely there because Hello Games (a very small team of four people) probably thought that there should be some sort of excuse for all that dangerous motorbike riding, although, being one of those suicidal daredevils (seriously, people like this must be pretty tired of living), 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.

Firstly, Joe Danger’s single player structure is one that works very well indeed. Unlocking new levels is done through the accumulation of stars, in which you can then choose the levels you want to unlock based on the amount of stars that you currently possess. How do you earn these stars? By completing requisite tasks (the dangerous kind, of course) within each level.

The tricks are over the top, but strangely no tasks require you to wrack up specific high scores.

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.

The game 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, particularly in the early moments when you are just getting a feel for the game and what it expects from you.

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’re 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 batche, 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 select 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.

Backdrops become a little repetitive over time, but, as it was made by only four people, it's very easy to forgive and forget.

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, it’s 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 PS3, but when the overall look is so uplifting and colourful, does it really matter? The music is also very chirpy, although, as there’s few tunes in there, it sadly becomes repetitive over time.

For a very fair £9.99, Joe Danger is a superb PSN download that is deserving of widespread attention. The game has the depth to woo the core gamer, but there’s also a simplicity and structure that will appeal 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. The four people who made this should be very proud of their achievement.