Comic Jumper – Issue One
The gentlemen at Twisted Pixel have released their third Xbox Live Arcade title, Comic Jumper. In this 2.5D shooter, you play the part of Captain Smiley, the hero of his own comic book. After getting cancelled from lack of sales, Smiley and his permanently-attached sidekick Star are given a second chance to get their own comic back. With the help of Twisted Pixel, the developers themselves, Smiley and Star must ‘guest-star’ in four different-themed comics in order to raise enough money to launch their comic again.
I do not like platform games. I didn’t like them when they were new, and I don’t really care for them now. I was hesitant to even play this title. When I started and heard the banter between Smiley, Star, and the villains, I gained more interest in playing. The writing is great, the jokes are funny, and the pop-culture references fit right in with the humor. I don’t want to give any examples because the game centers so much around dialogue, quoting any of it would be considered a spoiler. If you enjoy clever conversations, double entendres, and bad puns, you will love the script for Comic Jumper.
The Sights and Sounds
Graphically, Comic Jumper lives up to its name. Each section played is themed in the style of a different comic. For two examples, when Smiley goes into a fantasy theme, the colors are muted, the lines of characters are sharply drawn, and Smiley himself gets an appropriate outfit. In the silver age comic, the level is cel-shaded. Each comic has its own feel, which helps the game look fresh as you move through them.
Music is appropriately scored according to the level as well. The fantasy comic gets booming drums and hard-hitting brass notes and the silver age gets more of an old-schooll Batman style of score. In the transition rooms between jumping into comics, there is a radio station playing original music, and even the stats screen gets its own lyrics explaining what you’re looking at.
This is where it takes a turn for the worse…
It’s a shame then, when the actual game itself is so boring and repetitive. Take away the atmosphere and the script, and all that’s left is a poorly-designed platform game. Gameplay consists of side-to-side running, shooting while aiming with the analog stick, on-rails third person sequences dodging obstacles, and boss battles. In the side-scrolling, levels get progressively harder by adding more and more enemies. Many times there are timed jumps which make no sense and situations where it’s impossible to avoid getting hit. The on-rails sequences are made more difficult by shifting camera angles and blocked views, making it tough to see what to shoot at or avoid. Boss battles are all about finding the patterns and staying alive while doing as much damage as possible.
Is it all worth it?
Because of these issues, the dialogue is more enjoyable than the gameplay itself. The only reason I continued playing was to hear the next conversation. While I applaud Twisted Pixel for creating an original idea with fresh acting, this is still a game. As a game, it doesn’t hold up to others in its genre. If you are prepared for frustrating level designs, swarms of enemies, and plenty of “Damnit! I made that jump!” moments, you will be rewarded with the comedy Comic Jumper has to offer.