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Jazzpunk (PC) artwork

Jazzpunk (PC) review

"Naked Gun: The Game. Featuring! At least two E. Honda jokes and counting."

I could Ė and a large part of me is telling me I should Ė spend the next 800 words or so telling you that Jazzpunk is irrelevantly brilliant in the same vein as The Stanley Parable or Conkerís Bad Fur Day. It certainly wants to be viewed as industry satire, spraying jokes and ridicule around on fully automatic. Almost everything you see in game is a sly dig or knowing reference to something else, and a lot of these are sure to make you smile. Just after I checked out some garbage and got a congratulation message for being the 1032nd person to do so, I ate some nearby pizza. Instead of providing me with a tasty snack, this instead transported me into a cheese-and-pepperoni topped survival horror world, where the undead could be quartered with a pizza slicer you can dual-wield along with a wooden spatula. This all leads to a remote cabin which you can only escape after surviving an Evil Dead 2 reference. Then, youíre back in the gameís real world and wondering what the hell just happened.

Roving around the streets will lead you to a frog sporting a bright purple Mohawk who is trying to leach off the nearby coffee shopís wi-fi. You can help him, if you want, by launching yourself into an impromptu game of Frogger where each failed attempt forfeits various injuries to your amphibian chum. Fail enough to adorn him with bandages, casts and crutches, and heíll beg you to stop playing before you kill him. You could ignore him, and stroll into a nearby theatre where you watch an old black & white advert for an awful toy either in reverent silence, or in the midst of dousing the rest of the audience with cigar smoke and unwanted popcorn. Maybe youíll take up a strangerís offer on some gum, triggering a chain of events that will hurl him headfirst into oncoming traffic. Maybe youíll do none of these things, and instead concentrate on the levelsí main mission, which is to steal a top secret file from the Soviet base. By doing so, you could see the entire stage off in a matter of minutes.

Jazzpunk is an odd little game, and hides the vast majority of its quirks in plain sight, but slightly off the suggested track. Thereís a loose narrative about an alternative Cold War-esaque setting and, I guess, youíre kind of supposed to maybe be a spy of sorts. By following nothing but the strict instructions youíre provided, the entire game can be seen off in about an hour. What it really wants you to do is explore its oddball world, converse with all the applicable people and seek out its numerous in-jokes. As such, it actively encourages you to type curse words into the public telephones, or seek out the opinions of sentient cardboard boxes. It wants you to shoot magnetised beams at pigeons to deionise them, and to be crapped on from above in retaliation (the pigeon crap is then washed away with windscreen wipers). There are moments of comedic genius, and the game wears its bizarre influences on its sleeve. A holiday resort is flooded with Hunter S. Thompson clones, resplendent in their Hawaiian shirts, reflective shades and cigarette holders hovering where their mouths should be. They sprout surrealist quotes mocking their simple character models and stop just short of labelling the game as bat country. Girls ask you if their dress makes them look fat32 or make fun of people who pronounce gif wrong. Shop owners tell you their vase shop is infested with vases. Strange robots just roll up to you and state "Video game joke!" before wandering off again.

Thing is, when Jazzpunk works, it's brilliant. You're asked to hunt a motorised pig down by a paranoid agent wearing a colander on his head so they can't read his mind -- but the pig has a barcode you can scan with your mobile phone (your real mobile phone) which tells you eating the pig is a really bad idea. You'll eat the pig anyway. This more or less destroys reality as you know it.

Jabs and put downs come at you in never-ending waves, and this is both Jazzpunk's biggest strength and highest let down. The sheer number of jokes means that you'll never be far away from something that will make you smile. It also means enduring a lot of things that will fall flat. Hitting people with a fly swatter so they can make emoticon faces at you, or drinking a shot at a bar so you can be told it's something gross, and spit it out. Having to sit on a whoopee cushion before you're assigned your first mission. Playing mini golf with a snooker cue, or uncovering fourteen-foot tall novelty ice cubes on the beech while valley girls complain about how the sand gets in their everywhere. This is what makes Jazzpunk a hard game to recommend because all the things I laughed my arse off at will probably make the next guy roll their eyes. All the stuff that I clicked through disinterestedly might well be your gaming highlight.

No, thatís a lie. Wedding Qake will be your gaming highlight. Here, you run around a cakeís interior taking part in a frantic FPS death match using weapons like champagne bottles and bazookas loaded with a single red rose. Prenuptial agreements and reception toasts act as power buffs, and the constant stream of in-game text chat list kills as marriages, and asks for A/S/L under old-school AOL-ish aliases.

Jazzpunk isnít for everyone, and players willing to invest in its sense of silliness and extraneous satire will undoubtedly find stretches theyíll need to endure while searching out the next slice of brilliance. Whether or not itís worth it is going to wildly differ from person to person. Thereís not really a way to factor that into an obligatory numbered score like the one Iím about to have to shoehorn in, so Iíll end with a vague recommendation; give Jazzpunk a go if youíre in the mood to nerd it up for an evening, but donít blame me if you expect a game that asks you to photocopy your arse to act as an I.D. picture to be high humour.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (February 19, 2014)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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- posted February 19, 2014:

Damn, this is an excellent review. As someone who didn't enjoy Jazzpunk at all, you make the game somehow sound... really fun!

I might write up my thoughts, who knows. But yes, Wedding Qake is the best thing about it.
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EmP posted February 20, 2014:

I was never going to badmouth a game after more or less the first thing it dropped on my lap was an Evil Dead 2 reference. But I can easilly see why many people would find the game a chore. I see from other reviews that a lot of players liked it more than me, but while I really enjoyed the high points, some of the getting there really dragged.

There's easilly enough room for a counter opinion -- I urge you to do so. Think of it as getting a pesky J letter out of the way. You can even use my assets.

Thanks for reading.

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