I think it would be best to start out this review with some background. I didn't like Splosion Man. It was my first review on this website and I tore it a new one with constant bitching about it's game design. I didn't even think about reviewing games before I played that game and I was so pissed at Splosion man that it got me to post a review because I needed to vent my dissatisfaction.
I recognized that it had some fun humor and the controls were good and the simple game design worked in it's favor to keep things focused but….I just had no fun with it. The game was just so full of balls hard sequences where their was no room for error. It ended up making the game pure torture for a gamer like me. I've never had any patience for being a perfectionist with super hard games and I've always been of the opinion that any game that is difficult on purpose on it's lowest available difficulty setting is punishing people who don't like hard games for being unlucky enough to be suckered in by it.
Yes I did feel suckered by Splosion Man
So I never paid attention to Twisted Pixel after that fact. I didn't like the first game I played of theirs and didn't want to give them a second thought as a developer. I had never really heard of Comic Jumper, and had no idea Twisted Pixel was responsible for it. When asked out of a list of games which ones I would like to get for free to review on Bitmob during the recent giveaway for writers I included Comic Jumper on the list because I'm a fan of comic books, and I was interested in the idea of parodying them in a game format. So when I won the free download code I was pleased. It was a chance to try a new game and have some fun.
A new challenger approaches
It's been four hours and I'm not sure I've had anything resembling fun with this game.
To tell you why I don't like Comic Jumper first we have to decide what Comic Jumper is as a game. First and foremost Comic Jumper is a Contra style run and gun game. However it will randomly shift to a 2d side scrolling beat em up (think rush n attack only without jumping) and then to a third person rail shooter (think Sin and Punishment). This is apparently an attempt to make the levels more dynamic and add variety.
You shoot stuff, it fall down. Most of the game is pretty much just that.
The biggest problem with this game is that none of these game modes are fleshed out and they all feel horribly unfinished.
In the side scrolling shooter stages the collision detection for both you and your enemies feels wrong. Often I would take hits from enemies or their projectiles that I felt I should have dodged and I never really got completely comfortable with my character's hitbox. Shooting enemies was also very difficult with your paper thin stream of bullets until I turned on the auto aim function buried in a corner of the options menu.
Also the basic design of the run and gun segments is both frustrating and boring. The vast majority of the run and gun gameplay is spent running in a strait line on flat ground and navigating enemies that suddenly fly in or run in from off screen in specific patterns. The trick to these points is to know when to shoot, when to jump, and when to slide under an enemy.
However trying to read what you are supposed to do from the actual arrangement of the enemies is nearly impossible as you are given only a brief time to react as things swoop in from off screen. The enemy's intent to shoot you or run into you is often not clear until you are already being hit. Even when it is clear what you are supposed to do there is always some enemy running up to put pressure on you to make you move faster then you are ready to. This is made even worse in sections where you have to climb a ladder or shimmy across hanging on a pipe. In those points you have to decide if you should keep moving or if you should shoot, since you can't do both at once. The pipe and ladder controls often cost me damage as well, as getting on and off the climbable scenery is unintuative.
The end result of all of this is that the best way to get through the shooting segments is to inch forward to spawn enemies, then run backward to get enough distance to be safe to kill them, when you can't do that you should jump like a maniac and hope for the best. Also you have to be very careful to not get hit multiple times in a row as the post damage invincibility is much too short. Thank goodness you at least don't get thrown back by taking damage.
Once you get into the rail shooting stages you end up with a whole new set of problems. Your aiming reticule is super sluggish. I ended up fighting with it to target enemies constantly. The reticule itself is horribly slow and also has a habit of drifting past the enemy you are trying to target as most enemies you are fighting have rather small hitboxes and some of them move almost constantly to throw off your aim. Trying to fight to get your reticule on the enemy while dodging their super aggressive attacks splits your attention so much that you are guaranteed to take a lot of damage in these segments until you adapt and memorize where enemies will be coming from and what will drop in your way.
Then there are the brawling segments…these are a joke. A complete and total mess and waste of time. You have only two buttons to use besides walking left to right. Punch, and knock enemies away to buy time (this does no damage). You have no jump button, you move super slow, and enemies all go down in three hits. They barely use this game type at all, and when they do it's obvious they are padding. The worst thing is that the game starts with this mode. When I started my ritual when I first boot a game up of pressing all the buttons to see what they do and nothing happened except running back and forth slowly and two of the buttons doing flailing and incompetent looking melee attacks I thought the game was broken. Then after walking right for a few moments it switched to shooting and I was at least briefly relieved the game had a jump button.
The fighting stages are also easy as heck. This guy had to try to get this screen of him in trouble.
Throughout all three game styles (and a few variants of the run and gun shooter where the only difference is your character can fly around instead of walking on ground and jumping…which works….sorta) you are fighting the twin demons of boredom and chip damage.
The chip damage is a problem because Comic Jumper has no way to restore health in mid mission. If you take a hit that means that you are one step away from restarting at one of the games infrequent checkpoints and there is nothing you can do to counteract that mistake. This led to me not having a single mission in the game where I didn't restart from a checkpoint at least 10 times. I would even find myself purposefully taking damage from enemies to die just to have more health after I believed I had passed a checkpoint.
They don't actually mark where the checkpoints are in the game but a good rule of thumb is after a cutscene or before a boss fight…though that is not always the case when they feel like making a section more challenging. Comic Jumper is not the hardest game I have ever played but at points where a two checkpoints were too far apart and I was unable to survive the full length of the section I really got sick of repeating the same checkpoint over and over.
Our intrepid hero sure does die a lot.
When things are spiced up by a boss fight and you aren't howling in anger because the boss fight is too difficult you can rest assured that you will soon be bored of that as well because almost every boss fight in the game is repeated a number of times. The boss fights aren't even a break from the main gameplay as you are pretty much doing the same thing you do normally. Find the pattern of places to stand in so that you don't die and shoot at the enemy whenever you are safe. I've done it all before and seen it done much better then it is here.
When you get money from finishing a bland level you then get to purchase bland upgrades at a bland upgrade shop. The upgrades you purchase from the shop are of course only stat based upgrades so you barely even notice you have them. After I bought a health upgrade I did not notice myself dieing less. After I bought two gun upgrades I did not notice enemies dieing more easily. Since the game also decides how much money you get at the end of a mission by how perfectly you finished the last mission it also creates an economy of failure. Deaths and missing shots leading to less money leading to less upgrades leading to more failure.
If I had one change to make to this game to make it more tolerable I would have added in new weapon power ups, new physical tricks or aids to character movement or defense, or purchasable health recovery items. If they did nothing else that would lessen the stiff difficulty curve and add a sense of progression to your character that wasn't completely false and tacked on. A good sense of progression and reward can help repetitive gameplay feel rewarding and it was a big missed opportunity here.
At this point I could end the review and that would be enough for people to know not to play this game, but as a fiction writer and a comic book fan I have to address the awful writing and humor in this game as well.
For starters, the game is not fun to sit through because there are no likeable characters. The main character is a self important jackass with questionable motivations and no real morals to speak of, and his entire motivation is to complain at other people until he gets his way, and do stuff for money so he can buy his way into being respected.
On top of this, their isn't a single character in this game who likes him and few of them even like each other so the vast majority of the dialog is people arguing with each other. For four hours you have to deal with every character bitching at every other character about every little thing in a never ending screeching blur. This was so important to the writers that your main character has an extra face attached to his chest that's only purpose is to complain about everything and argue with him! I guess so they could shoe horn in more half baked sarcastic jokes and constant agitating verbal showdowns.
He may get some of the better jokes in the game, but Star is just there to annoy everyone else.
Secondly, the game has no idea how to do proper parody. As a comic book fan I was mortified to watch as the writers stumbled around their pretty limited knowledge of comics to haphazardly pick three easy target comic genres to insult (Conan the Barbarian, Silver age superhero, Cutesy Japanese girls manga) and then dispite having ripe targets they made almost no insightful jokes about the comic genres they chose. Even the jokes they do make about the comics they are supposedly parodying are ham fisted and forced.
For example. They make fun of the silver age's habit of censoring violence by having the main character get fined every time he or his chest buddy curses or harms a human being. Complete with a very distinctive sound effect that makes me hunger for taco bell to cover up every time a curse is uttered. Since half of the enemies in the level are human beings and star goes out of his way to curse up a storm this causes a loud noise to sound and a stamp to appear to obscure your view of the action almost every second of the first level of that section. Theirs making a joke and then theirs beating a joke half to death and leaving it sobbing in the corner. Not to mention when he wasn't being censored Star never used words nearly as offensive as the ones he is implied to say when he was censored. This is a teen rated game after all. It's thematically schizophrenic to make fun of censorship in this fashion while censoring yourself in the same way!
Thirdly, the game is unbelievably self important. You know how I said I didn't know this game was by Twisted Pixel? Well I know it now after having it crammed down my fucking throat for an entire game! Not only is the plot of the game centered on the concept of Twisted Pixel themselves giving the main character the resources to jump from one comic book to another the game is so obsessed with making you love the developer that they dedicated an entire wing of the hub world to being a storefront for their other two games.
I think the phrase "Twisted Pixel" is used more then the main character's freaking name.
They then proceed to have the main characters constantly reverently reminisce about Splosion Man and even turn that habit into an excuse to recycle the end boss from Splosion man in this new game! They just drop him in, exact same animations and everything. I guess they just ran out of ideas for this game and had to find some old resources to use during the finale.
I didn't like this boss in Splosion Man and he's only slightly easier in this game.
Their self importance also bleeds into the joke telling in the game as well. I could hardly call this game a parody of comic books because they spend more time parodying themselves then they do on any comic book trope. Every single game design flaw in the game seems to have an accompanying sarcastic joke, as if they could somehow excuse that they made a crappy game by laughing about it in the player's face. I already noticed you reused the same half assed enemy boss 5 times in the same level guys. A snappy one liner doesn't make it more fun.
I already thought Splosion Man was a bit guilty of trying too hard with it's humor at about the point where one of the staff was dancing around in a Splosion man mascot suit in front of a green screen but Comic Jumper is them throwing any restraint they may have ever had out the window and completely ruining a game by being WAAAAY too convinced of their own great sense of humor.
But that's not all! For a finale I have been saving the largest shot across this game's bow I could make for last.
Twisted Pixel has made possibly the most sexist game I have ever had the displeasure of suffering through.
Smiley and Star. Enemies of women everywhere….and creepy as sin.
The first level of the game you are playing in Smiley's own comic and the first thing you do is leave your female sidekick Greta to die in an explosion because she complains too much. (Greta of course being a classic negative female stereotype of the bitchy know it all) She comes back in the non comic book hub world as your annoying voice In your ear and spends the rest of the game busting your balls over every little thing, sabotaging you willfully, and complaining whenever you take damage. Considering how often you take damage it gets really old hearing the same 5 voice clips of her telling you to suck less.
The next few levels you play in a Conan the Barbarian parody and the main character you interact with is the barbarians head concubine. Smiley and Star spend the entire rest of the level basically talking about her breasts, how much of a whore she is, and how much they want to do her. She is at one point captured (of course) and after you save her she decides to continue being the barbarian's concubine, despite him having betrayed everyone for his own benefit, and now being an unattractive blimp from gorging himself on the spoils of his selfishness.
Numerous things suggest Star isn't looking at her feet.
Then the next comic genre you go into you are in the silver age, and the main antagonist is a straw man style feminist character named the Ropemaster. For that entire set of levels you have to contend not only with her undermining feminist thought with the most wrong headed and unintelligent arguments for woman's rights the writer could pull out of his ass to make her look stupid, you also have to deal with the comic's original protagonist. (a piece of paper rolled up in your pants..don't ask.) He seems to be going through puberty and desperately wants you to explain to him why the pretty girl makes him feel funny inside. So once again we have a stupid woman being objectified, only now she's complaining about it in such a way that it insults people who complain about women being objectified. Smiley is of course condescending in dealing with her and Star does everything he can to sexually harass her.
The sad thing is some woman had to actually voice her spouting about the evils of the phallus.
Then comes the third comic style. Manga. Apparently the comic you are in is a little girls comic about cherub like angel children. The entire level , in between proving and then openly admitting that the writers don't know shit about Manga and don't want to know, is saturated with parody of things that girls like. Such as feelings, love, and unicorns and rainbows. Smiley and star of course spend the entire level bitching about that because they are manly men and shouldn't have to be subjected to stupid girl stuff.
They spend most of the level shooting women for the crime of wanting to love them. The situation is more complex, stupid, and cartoony then that in their storytelling…but I just wanted to underline how much stating it simply makes the writers of this seem like psychopaths who are desperately afraid of women.
Then…in the most face palmingly horrible of humor twists, they make a joke about tentacle porn. Yes apparently they were so out of ideas for making fun of hello kitty and other hyper girly Japanese children's property that they decided to comment on Japan's drawn pornography industry multiple times in the parody as well. Never mind the idea that they were supposed to only be parodying one comic genre per set of levels. They would much rather imply that Japanese porn and Japanese children's comics are interchangeable!
You aren't supposed to make even a casual assosiation between this and tentacle hentai.
Then in the last level (which is mostly a lazy retread of the first level) Our noble hero Smiley promises Greta that things will change now that he has his new comic and he won't treat her like dirt anymore. Then leaves her to die in the exact same explosion again…because…uh…..that bitch had it coming?
Oh Certainly, Twisted Pixel. We can all agree with you that all women are twisted bitches who are only good for sex and should stop talking and get back to making you a sammich….damn this is magnificently dumb.
Fucking hell did no one in this company read the script or play the damn game before slapping it online? Sane people do not think this kind of storytelling is charming or good entertainment! This is a teen rated game and it is more destructive to young intellects then most R rated films because the plot rewards and encourages sexism and selfishness!
So not only is the game not fun to play, not as funny as it thinks it is, it also offends me as a human being because it's humor could not cover up it's mean spirited and wrong minded ideas.
This is one of those games you have to use to send a message to it's developer by not buying it. If this makes money this developer will think they should keep going in this direction, and I don't want them to ruin what little they are doing right as a company by thinking this is what the people want them to keep making.
If you want a run and gun shooter off xbox live, buy the vastly superior Gunstar Heroes. If you want something that is hard as hell and one hit and your dead style but has much better controls and design then Comic Jumper pick up Alien Homonid HD. If you want a good over the shoulder rail shooter, check out Sin and Punishment or the Panzer Dragoon games. If you want a good brawler….man pretty much anything out there is better then this game's brawler sections. If you want a funny game series that can do character interaction and parody right, check out the fantastic first season of Sam and Max on the cheap. Hell, if you want a better game by these guys, pick up Splosion Man! I hate Splosion Man because I think it's cheap and unfair, but it is fantastic next to this tripe.
Gunstar Heroes and Alien Homonid are on X box live right now, and are cheaper and better then this.
Whatever you do, do not buy this. Twisted Pixel will make better games in the future if you show them that we will not accept this low quality, half finished, and mean spirited mess. So Twisted Pixel, I'm telling you right now. This is not the way to go. Just take a step back and figure out where you went wrong here. There has to be a better game then this in you guys. Please please please never make anything like this ever again.
In my one word scale of how this game made me feel. The only word that will do is “PISSED” !