Joe Danger: Special Edition Review (Xbox 360)
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Joe Danger doesn't know what he wants to be. His cape, body suit and helmet are modeled after famous daredevil, Evel Knievel. Yet Joe Danger aspires to be more than just a bus-jumping stuntman.
In this update of a 2010 Playstation 3 release, Joe also tries to be a motocross racer, a a freestyle trick competitor and a platforming hero ala Super Mario or Donkey Kong. Mixing together so many different play styles could have made Joe Danger the "Travis Pastrana" of video games. But unlike Pastrana, Joe Danger can't juggle these different occupations.
Like a rider attempting too many tricks in too little air space, Joe Danger's ambitions cause him to wreck.
Don't be fooled by the cartoon graphics; Joe Danger: Special Edition is an extremely difficult game. Most courses have Joe using almost every button on the controller, often requiring him to hold down two or three buttons at a time.
The course obstacles are simple -- a spike pit to jump over, a pole to duck under -- but the finger gymnastics required to pull off basic double jumps and trick combinations create more crashes than the obstacles themselves.
While Joe can breeze through most levels if he's not keeping score, going for maximum point totals results in curse words and hand cramps.
The presence of three separate bike lanes creates additional gameplay problems. Changing lanes at will is prohibited, as the game forces riders to find a "lane switch" located somewhere on the course. Only then can bikes move up or down from their current lane. The combination of a scrolling left-to-right camera and 3D polygonal objects can also make it hard to distinguish which of the three lanes course hazards are sitting in.
Joe Danger's bike physics are also lacking, as Joe often lands on his head or back without the game registering the collision correctly as a "crash."
Bland character designs and repetitive level backgrounds give Joe Danger: Special Edition a boring aesthetic. The same drab desert and western backdrops repeat themselves for most of the game, with little variation between courses.
Color is plentiful, but the art lacks a distinct style or personality. The hero Joe is a "mute" Evel Knievel clone, and the story's main bad guys, Team Nasty, are just different-colored riders using the same faceless model. With no story or video cinematics besides a brief introductory slide-show, there's little reason to care about any of the characters in Joe Danger's universe.
The in-game interface is a mess, with menus being slow to navigate through and text and images seemingly everywhere. Vital information like level objectives and point totals often get lost in the clutter of information.
Races are overwhelmed with pop-up text and audio cues. Players will have a hard time focusing on the screen with over-the-top sound effects and congratulatory text firing off every time Joe collects an item.
Each of the 100-plus levels in Joe Danger features multiple objectives to clear. The game awards a "star point" for each completed objective. Joe must use his "star points" to unlock further levels.
Objective types include:
- Hit The Targets
- Collect All The Stars
- Find The Hidden Star
- Collect All The Coins
- Collect The Letters D-A-N-G-E-R
- Maintain A Trick Combo Throughout The Level
Most objectives involve item collecting of some sort. The tedium of tracking down scattered icons quickly sets in after only a few events. Career mode, while large, feels like such a grind that most players will want to quit after only a few hours.
Thankfully, a level editor is included, allowing players to share created levels among friends. Players can also manually enter gamertags to share user-created levels with strangers.
Edited levels can become quite large and complex, though it's a bit disappointing that the maximum number of storable levels is eight per user.
Players can also unlock multiple costumes for Joe, as well as several other characters to ride as. Two chimpanzees motorists, Chuckles and Knuckles, add humor to what's otherwise a boring lineup of riders. A Santa Claus character driving a green and red ATV is also available for a limited-time free download. When Santa rides, snow fills the screen, and the star icons change to presents!
Unless you're looking for a game to practice level designing, you'll want to save those 1200 Microsoft points for the upcoming Trials: Evolution, or dig out your copies of Excitebike or Excitebike 64.
Developer Hello Games' Xbox 360 debut would be completely forgettable were it not for the excellent level creator, which is the only way to get around Joe Danger: Special Edition's weak course designs.
Visuals: The menus and in-game interface are crowded with text and overloaded with visual stimuli. Character designs feel generic and lack personality. The background art is bland and repetitive.
Audio: It's hard to say which is more annoying: the three songs of cheesy '70s music stuck on repeat, or the irritating J-J-J-J-OOOOOOE D-D-D-D-DANGER!!! cartoon sound effects. Mercifully, all the in-game audio can be muted and replaced with a custom soundtrack.
Control Scheme: Either the developers thought they were making a fighting game, or Goro was their lead playtester. Why were so many buttons needed to perform basic bike maneuvers?
Learning Curve: Players won't find much challenge if their only goal is to make it from start to finish of each level. But clearing all the level objectives and going after gold trophies or pro medals causes Joe Danger's difficulty to ramp off into the sky.
Lasting Value: A large quantity of events and objectives to complete can't hide an overall lack of fun. Aside from the motocross race events and multiplayer spiltscreen contests, Joe Danger's stock content is unexciting and unappealing.
Score: 4.5 (Below-Average)