REVIEW – Joe Danger: Special Edition

The PSN’s acclaimed stuntman finally jumps over to Xbox Live Arcade.

Erik Norrisby Erik Norris

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Like a lot of Xbox-centric gamers, I missed out on the kerfuffle surrounding the release of Joe Danger on PSN.  With the dearth of games released on all three of the major console networks, exclusives not on the Xbox can easily slip through my fingers.  It’s an unfortunate side effect that we all have to deal with these days – no one human can play all of the games that come out on all of the systems. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’d never even heard of Joe Danger.  When the review code came my way I thought this was a brand new IP! The PSN die-hards already know what I am about to write, but here it goes anyway: Joe Danger is an tremendously fun and addictive game.

From the get-go, the gameplay is pretty straightforward. You get to play as a ‘70s-era stunt driver that rides a motorcycle for thrills. You drive mostly two-dimensionally on a track that looks and feels like a souped-up version of Excitebike. What makes this game modern in comparison to classics like Excitebike and Uniracers is the incredible physics engine at play. While the physics aren’t as stunning as those seen in a game like Portal 2, they make an incredible impact in a game that pays homage to iconic titles from years past. Joe Danger is in the same class as indie favorites N+ and Super Meat Boy and deserves to have its engine pushed to the limits by the most hardcore gamers.  

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Like when playing LittleBigPlanet, in Joe Danger you can slide in and out of the background and foreground of a map to gain strategic advantages or disadvantages. In other words, you’re playing a 2D game with three separate horizontal planes. This gameplay structure allows the designers to flawlessly open up the game without being forced into memory taxing 3D levels or wonky camera issues. It smartly makes the game appear to be modern while taking advantage of tried and true old school game dynamics.

There are tons of levels to tax your patience without jamming you up for too long on one level. If you’re an avid action-puzzle player, you’ll get close to the end without wanting to cheat too much.  Repetition is the key with this game and the developers did a great job of making repetition important without letting the game go stale.  Because they include a trick system like that of a Tony Hawk game, you don’t have to play a level the same way each and every run through. By experimentation you can discover hundreds of different solutions each play through. The highest praise I can give Joe Danger is that even at my greatest frustration level, I can button mash a shit-ton of combos and luck my way into a new solution.

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For those of you who mastered the original game on the PS3, the Special Edition includes new Lab levels designed to test even the most hardcore Danger fans. I was able to coast through the first set of lab levels, but got stuck halfway through the second set.  With a total of five lab levels, hardcore PSN players should consider checking this out. While it isn’t 50 new levels, it might be worthwhile to A) try these new challenges and B) to just have fun playing the old levels once again.  If you think $15 is a steep price for a few new lab levels you might want to wait for this to drop down a bit.

Joe Danger is a hell of a good time and a perfect example of a well made XBLA/PSN title. It’s quality and entertainment value surprised me quite a bit. So, if you’re looking for a solid arcade title to play between Christmas parties or with friends while roasting chestnuts this holiday, I highly recommend Joe Danger!

9


Full Disclosure: CraveOnline received 1 advanced copy of Joe Danger SE for the Xbox 360 from Microsoft. We were held to the embargo date of 12/14/2011. Before starting our review, we completed 50% of the game.

To understand how we score games, see our officially defined review guidelines.