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Viewtiful Joe 2 (PlayStation 2) artwork

Viewtiful Joe 2 (PlayStation 2) review

"I went to college with a girl named Gina Tiranelli. I never really knew her until senior year, but she showed up in a lot of my Psychology c|asses all of the sudden. Through random chance, she and I wound up working together quite a bit. She was, hands down, the hottest woman I'd ever met, and is still in my personal top five. Viewtiful Joe 2 reminds me a lot of Gina Tiranelli. "

I went to college with a girl named Gina Tiranelli. I never really knew her until senior year, but she showed up in a lot of my Psychology c|asses all of the sudden. Through random chance, she and I wound up working together quite a bit. She was, hands down, the hottest woman I'd ever met, and is still in my personal top five. Viewtiful Joe 2 reminds me a lot of Gina Tiranelli.

At first glance, you can't get over how exotic and beautiful Viewtiful Joe 2 looks. The designers at Clover Studio took the idea of cel-shading beyond merely replicating a comic book. They created a look that's hard to describe, but is undeniably beautiful. Try to imagine an anime that takes chop sockey martial arts flicks, schlock science-fiction, and "Land of the Lost" and puts it all in a blender, and you'll have a good idea of how Viewtiful Joe 2 looks. It's full of vibrant colors, crazy backgrounds, unique and often weird enemies, all of which are animated gorgeously.

Then, you get to know how Viewtiful Joe 2 works, and it's pretty cool. Just like how Gina was into sports and played a wicked game of pool, Viewtiful Joe 2 has some fun and exciting new ideas thrown into what is, at its core, a side-scrolling beat 'em up. You can't block; you have to time and evade your opponent's telegraphed moves or you will get hit. But, if you successfully sidestep their strikes, you can counterattack the baddies into tomorrow with a bunch of flashy punches and kicks. Once you acquire your "VFX" powers, your attacks become even more outrageous and powerful. The VFX moves include a "bullet-time" inspired slowdown mode, which causes everything to move as slow as molasses, a mach speed mode that causes your attacks to speed up to the point where you set yourself on fire, a replay attack that hits the enemies three times, and a zoom in mode that gives you center stage to put on a brutal display of punches and kicks. If you activate multiple VFX powers at the same time, you become practically unstoppable. Additionally, you can now kick butt as Joe's girlfriend Silvia. At the touch of a button, you'll swap in Silvia, giving you access to her twin pistols and slightly different attacks. Collectively, these features give you a lot of options to defeat any foe that stands in your way, and are a fresh take on a stale genre.

But then, after spending more time with the game, you find out that it, just like Gina, only wants to talk about shoes all day (metaphorically speaking). Right when you've gotten to understand how the game works, it stops trying. You get your last power very early in the third level. From then on, you're just slogging through the same enemies, using the same techniques over and over again, until getting completely bored with the utter monotony of Viewtiful Joe 2's design.

The shallow script doesn't really help matters, either. Overall, Viewtiful Joe 2 sounds great, but the voice acting gets on your nerves very quickly. It's not that the delivery is poor; it's just that the lines are stupid, and some of the voices sound like nails on a chalkboard. Both problems actually fit with the overall tone of the game; after all Joe is supposed to be starring in dumb B-level action flicks. But, the plot is utter nonsense, and the characters actually exclaim catchphrases like, "Henshin-a-go-go, baby!" a few dozen times per level. Like with Gina, you'll tune out what Viewtiful Joe 2 says after a few minutes ("Uh huh, new high heels. They're red? That's cool."). Unlike with Gina, though, you can thankfully skip most of the dialogue with the press of a button.

Even though you'll quickly be bored of this game, you'll probably still find yourself going through the motions to see if there's going to be a payoff. Unfortunately, neither Viewtiful Joe 2 nor Gina makes it easy. Like a set of proverbial hoops to jump through, Viewtiful Joe 2 throws a myriad of obscure puzzles at you. The solutions aren't difficult or challenging. They're down-right obscure, and will likely require more than one visit to to figure out. You'll have to use a combination of different VFX powers in different ways, sometimes illogically, just to fail the puzzle and have to start it all over again. Once you get past them, and think you can finally close the deal, you're thrown up against extremely powerful bosses that have far too much health, and deal too much damage to beat without dying over and over again. The whole experience quickly becomes frustrating. Eventually, you realize that the payoff will never be worth the time that you put in, as Viewtiful Joe 2 never gets any better. You won't waste a lot of time with this game, probably around 12-15 hours. When you do finally beat the game and move on, you'll wonder why you stayed as long as you did. That feeling is the hallmark of any bad relationship.

Ultimately, Viewtiful Joe 2 is just a big tease. It looks great. It sounds great. For awhile it's one of the most entertaining and interesting games that you will ever play. Unfortunately, it just doesn't deliver down the stretch. You're better off putting your money into something that will give you a good time and leave you satisfied or by dropping a few bucks on a cheap thrill. Either will leave you feeling better about yourself than dropping your hard-earned money on Viewtiful Joe 2.

skrutop's avatar
Community review by skrutop (May 16, 2007)

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