Over the next month, we'll be reviewing games we didn't get around to earlier in the year. PlayStation Network exclusive Joe Danger is the first dirtbike off the rank.
The premise couldn't be simpler (or more unexpected): take ExciteBike, the story of a man on a bike moving sideways down a track, then throw in the best parts of Mario 64 (collecting stars to unlock levels) and LittleBigPlanet (dropping new obstacles and items into the game world at the push of a button). Throw them over a row of parked buses and you get Joe Danger.
That unlikely formula may sound jarring - unnatural, even - but you know what, it works.
O-O-O-One More Go - Adding obstacles into levels is fun. The core mechanic of performing tricks along a 2D plane is fun. But what makes Joe Danger great is the fact you're not simply racing against the clock, or for points. Rather, there are different types of levels - some built for speed, others for tricks - and lots of different goals available to you, each requiring different skills and different tasks. Completing each task gets you a gold star, and gold stars unlock later levels, meaning if there's a particular challenge that stumps you, you can get around it by doing the stuff that's more fun. This not only makes progression a bit easier, but also makes the game incredibly compulsive, as you return to levels you've already beaten to try and beat them again, only this time differently.
F-F-F-Fun With Friends - Joe Danger is fun, but it's also funny, and built from the ground up with local multiplayer support in mind. Split-screen on this game is a blast as you push your tricks and speed to the limit, but simply hot-swapping the control pad through the singleplayer is also a load of fun, as the "try try again" formula is reminiscent of some of the all-time hot-swap greats like Burnout 2's crash mode and Skate.
B-B-B-Brick Wall - For around 2/3 of the game, the "gold stars" progression method lets even the most useless player march onwards to new levels and new challenges. Late in the game, however, I hit a brick wall, a sudden and steep difficulty curve that I had a hard time overcoming. Having been led through the game gently until that point, this slap in the face was a hard one to overcome, especially since I now had to repeat the game modes I least enjoyed to get enough gold stars to progress. I know, the same thing happens in Mario, but Mario 64 (and Galaxy) are far more subtle and forgiving with it.
While Joe Danger's punishing endgame was a little off-putting, I think that was partly down to the fact I'd been having so much fun playing it until that point. It's a novel experiment in genre blending that for the most part succeeds, and is a great game to recommend to people looking for a PlayStation Network title that's a little brighter and cheerier than many of the platform's other digital exclusives.
Especially if you've got a friend or room-mate to play it with you, preferably on the same couch.
Joe Danger was developed and published by Hello Games for the PlayStation 3. Released on June 9 as a PlayStation Network downloadable title, retails for $15. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed almost every stage, but man, those timed challenges are just way too hard.
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