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Jazzpunk (PC) artwork

Jazzpunk (PC) review

"Itís clear that my sense of humour doesnít align with Necrophone Gamesí at all."

Iím not going to call Jazzpunk a bad game, but itís clear that my sense of humour doesnít align with Necrophone Gamesí at all.

Set in a surrealistic take on the Cold War era, Jazzpunk stars Polyblank, a spy who carries out espionage missions like infiltrating a Soviet consulate and, I donít know, stealing a cowboyís cyber-kidney at a sushi bar. The core objectives donít take long at all to complete, and you could be done with the game in less than an hour. But Jazzpunk demands that you explore each level and find every silly joke there is. You could head straight into the consulate, see a few gags along the way, and be done with the mission in a few minutes. Or you could wander around the plaza first, interacting with people and objects and seeing what utterly bizarre surprises spring out.

The problem with this offbeat comedy showcase is that despite throwing a ridiculously abundant number of jokes at you from almost every direction (from quick and visual gags to puns and nods to retro video games), Jazzpunk thinks itís cleverer and more hilarious than it actually is. It tries so hard with overwhelmingly awkward results. Let me run down the gameís first couple of minutes: Polyblank enters the agencyís headquarters at Darlington Station. On a green bench is a cardboard box. You interact with it. ďIím just a box. Leave me alone,Ē it quips. [Okay, it probably sounded funnier in the developerís head.] You reach reception and take a gander at a bunch of magazines while you wait, including one named ĎPlaybotí. [Ö] Inside your bossís office, youíre told to take a seat but see a whoopee cushion there. You have no choice but to sit. Raspberry. [How juvenile.]

Humour is very subjective, of course, but the intro failed to amuse me and this was a recurring theme throughout the three-hour experience. The first mission outside the Soviet consulate includes sidequests ranging from degaussing pigeons to irritating moviegoers by throwing popcorn at them and smoking in their faces. One sees you help a frog hack a coffee shopís Wi-Fi. You play Frogger and succeed. Your reward: dialogue where the frog demands privacy to watch reptilian porn. Find the jokes underwhelming, and the side activities feel like a colossal waste of time.

Thereís a knock-off of Street Fighter IIís car-smashing bonus stage, but you question what the point is. Itís boring, clicking on the car repeatedly to throw punches and kicks, and all you get out of it is a lame punchline at the end. Photocopy your butt. Pick a nose-shaped lock by shoving your fingers up the nostrils. Smack a woman out of a bedroom window during a pillow fight. Jazzpunk is just too random for its own good, with very little tying the humour together; itís messy and too unfocused and scattershot. The jokes are so random that about halfway through, being random is the most predictable thing about Jazzpunk. What begins as an unfunny but at least mildly interesting experiment ends up being something tediously dull before the final act. You expect the unpredictable, and the game outstays its welcome.

A very small number of jokes did work, although given the high volume of gags, maybe this is a backhanded compliment. In one mission at a hotel, Polyblank must dress up as a woman. After putting on a blonde wig and then applying lipstick yourself manually (and extremely messily) you find that you can charm people with your shoddy disguise by planting a big, fat, sloppy kiss on their cheek. I actually smiled! Then thereís Wedding Qake, a matrimonial Quake rip-off that replaces rocket launchers with bottles of champagne. Made-up ping numbers and trash talk, wedding cake machine guns, jump pads Ė itís a pretty ace parody the first time you see it.

Jazzpunk lives and dies by how engaging you find its unusual brand of comedy. It failed to charm me, but if youíre the type of person who doesnít mind playing a few holes of a poorly-designed version of mini-golf because you think the idea of putting with a snooker cue is hilarious Ė just because! Ė well, maybe this game is right up your street.

Rating: 3/10

Ben's avatar
Community review by Ben (February 22, 2014)

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EmP posted February 24, 2014:

For every game I make sound playable, Ben's there to make it look crap.

Killer review; the fact is that Jazzpunk, by it's very nature, is going to be a huge miss for a lot of people, and you've showcased that flawlessly. Still, got to love Qake. That I can play that now right from Jazzpunk's start menu makes the rest of the title feel obsolete now.
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Ben posted February 24, 2014:

Thanks, Gary. Glad you think the review turned out well.

The divisive games are the most interesting to write and read about, I find, and I think it's nice that there are opposing views on Jazzpunk here. It's weird - even though I had a rotten time with the game (bar Wedding Qake, obviously), I find it difficult to unconditionally warn people to stay away from it. It's an incredibly subjective experience.

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