Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley walks the fine line between what is a fun game and a funny but average game. Initially, it veered towards the latter side and that worried me, given how good Twisted Pixel’s Splosion Man was at balancing the two factors. However, the more I played through, the more Comic Jumper began to shine. Ryan Wilson and I have both finished the game and here are our thoughts.
Lets get it out of the way. Comic Jumper is hilarious. It’s been a while where I’ve sat down with a game and laughed this much. This mostly stems from the fact that Captain Smiley isn’t your run of a mill superhero. He lives in a world where characters are aware of the medium they are in and work in their own comics for money.
After his comic run is cancelled after a particularly bad issue, Captain Smiley is forced to guest star in other comics so that he can get enough money to reboot his series, hence the title of the game. The graphics of the game even change to reflect the comic book, as well as the look of Captain Smiley and his sidekick Star as well. All of these worlds represent major genres or eras of comic books in general, from the gritty fantasy era to the bright and cheesy silver age to the slightly worrying world of manga. Comic Jumper isn’t afraid of making fun of itself or the worlds involved (especially Manga), and a lot of the narrative and humour is very meta. I’d tell you specifically what made me laugh but I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you. All you need to know is that it has all of the trademark surreal humour we’ve come to expect from Twisted Pixel.
Luckily, the gameplay compliments the humour well. At its core the game is a 2.5D platformer with shoot em up and beat em up elements thrown in for good measure. Shooting is of the usual standard, with the right stick controlling direction and X or RT is used as the trigger button. Smiley can also slide by holding the left stick down and pressing A. This is something you’ll want to keep in mind as it can come in handy against certain attacks.
It all works well enough. The controls feel tight and there’s no point where the controls lead to frustration. Whether the game would be worth it on just this is another question, as the humour certainly brings it up from a better than average title. There’s also not much variety outside of the occasional 3D shooting section so it can get repetitive at times.
This game is hard. The sheer amount of enemies, especially in the later worlds firing projectiles at you means that you could never hope to get through a level without taking some damage. Most of the time it’s a nice level of challenge as Smiley still has a reasonable amount of health, which can be upgraded along with his other abilities as you earn more cash. However, it can get annoying when there are about 8-10 enemies on screen all attacking you and your health quickly drains while you ultimately fail to dodge dozens of projectiles. Smiley’s health doesn’t regenerate either, so you’d be very lucky to finish a level without dying at least once. At least there are infinite lives. If you find yourself getting easily frustrated when playing difficult games then this might not be for you.
The weak link in the game definitely has to be the first world. It’s boring, simple as. While the level design of the stages vary in later worlds, this first world has the same type of sections and enemies repeat over and over. This isn’t good when you’ve only just started playing the game as it dampens your expectations. It’s not to say that this world is bad. It certainly could have been worse to play through, but it just pales in comparison to the later worlds.
I was slightly disappointed at how short the game was as well. I feel it could have benefited from another comic to guest in, which would have made it just about the right length for a downloadable title. I was able to burn through the three guest comics in about 30-45 minutes each, and Smiley’s comic world only has 2 levels itself. On the other hand, there are plenty of collectables to be bought as well as leaderboards for each level, which for the more competitive, will keep you coming back. There are also side missions to complete separate from the main game so you definitely won’t be short of things to do after finishing the game.
So is Comic Jumper worth $15? I think that really depends on how far you believe a game’s narrative and humour can carry it. In my opinion, it has enough decent gameplay and humour to earn that pricetag, but then so did Splosion Man, and that’s $10. If you’re looking for a short but sweet game that’s going to make you laugh though, then go for it. If not, I at least urge you to try the demo out. As for me, I’m convinced Twisted Pixel are now one of the developers to go to for bizarre, original and fun titles.
Captain Smiley is a jerk, plain and simple, but you can’t help but love the character. From the very first level you see him defeat the enemy, yet neglect to rescue the damsel in distress from an explosive demise all in the sake of a cool exit. This sentiment is mirrored in his partner, a star simply named Star, who takes the old saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” to a whole new level.
This game doesn’t just acknowledge the forth wall, it plows right into it over and over again. In the very first guest comic set, they take notice to how few in variety and high in quantity the enemies are, in a bit of self deprecation. Though, despite this, the game never feels repetitive. The only evidence of what could have been lies in unlockable concept art, which includes a lot of boss, enemy, and character concepts they had to cut for time.
I can see where Jamie could find the game a bit difficult, and I don’t blame him. He’s grown up in a time where regenerating health is about as common in a game as tutorials. The game even goes as ballsy to not include health packs to save you from the brink of death. If you do die, however, conveniently placed checkpoints will prevent you from having to run through an entire level again. Those not familiar with this style of gameplay can expect to die many times, which the game does in a explosion that plays off as a lovely homage to the Mega Man franchise, albeit with Captain Smiley insulting you for your ineptitude.
Twisted Pixel shows a lot of love in their titles, and it’s even more evident in Comic Jumper. In fact, the company themselves plays a big part in the storyline of the game. From saving Captain Smiley from the cancellation purgatory to assisting him in a sticky combat situation (which is done hilariously with an “green screened” bearded employee attacking the screen). They even make sure that in every world, Captain Smiley looks the genre’s part, always leading to a heavy physical change. Those familiar with the ending of Splosion Man can expect an even more over the top ending this time around. I won’t spoil much, but let’s just say that monkeys are involved.
At 1200 Microsoft Points, this game is a must buy for anyone with a little nostalgia in their heart and a good sense of humor.