Jazzpunk Review: A Trippy and Comedic Indie-Gem, Cut Short at the Peak of Your High
Necrophone Games’s newly released Jazzpunk is nearly impossible to sum up in just one sentence – which is what I believe the creators set out to do. In a game that is published by Adult Swim, you can expect an almost mirroring aesthetic between this game and their television shows; off-the-wall stylization, a niche comedic basis, unorthodox presentation, and an entertainment value wrapped in a very short timeframe.
You play as Polyblank, a sort-of secret agent in the midst of Cold War hysteria. With just a handful of missions to play, you’ll embark on tasks such infiltrating Russian spy rings, stealing kidneys, cross-dressing briefcase swaps, and so on – all through a series of bizarre, but entertaining, levels. Like its musical namesake, Jazzpunk throws you into a world of improvisation and polyrhythms, all while unapologetically scoffing at the mainstream with the use of satire.
To boil down Jazzpunk as just a first person “point-and-click” puzzler would be slightly undercutting it. Through the use of various mini-games – like Wedding Quake, a spoof of Quake, where you fire guns made of cakes or champagne bottles – Jazzpunk almost transcends the idea of being placed into a single genre. You’ll begin each mission by talking to “The Director,” and then subsequently popping a hallucinogenic pill, just to send you on your way.
The controls are pretty basic for a first person game; utilizing the mouse and WASD movement combo, with E allowing you to interact, and Q to cycle through what you’re carrying. Nothing feels clunky or unfinished, and almost every action in this game has some sort of reaction. Jazzpunk does a good job of guiding you through the levels with a series of on-screen instructions – but, you’ll constantly find yourself going “ooh what’s that?” and randomly venturing off the beaten path.
The real value of this game, though, is its own sense of humor. Jazzpunk is quite possibly the most side-splitting, knee-slapping gaming endeavor I have ever experienced. It’s filled with so many hilarious references and great one-liners, you can’t help but chuckle at almost every corner. For instance, while jet-setting around the world on the “vacation” level, I landed at a nice beach resort, where while doing a little bit of treasure hunting with a found metal detector, I stumbled upon this treasure:
The game does a great job complementing its loony theme with its choice of artwork. Combine the colorization of Aqua-Teen, the illustrated close-ups of Sponge-Bob, and the vividness of Katamari Damacy, and you have the basis of the game’s aesthetic. Even looking past the stylization choice, Jazzpunk also provides some decent visuals in terms of the sky, water, etc.
The game also finds a way to combine the style of late 50’s Americana into their trippy world – like in the lucid Warholian escape level. At some points, it’s almost as if they captured and “stylized” what the world of Fallout would look like before the apocalypse.
The game is filled with cartoonish SFX, perfectly timed Wilhelm-Screams, cheesy spy scores, and humorously modulated NPC voices. Aside from that, its sound repertoire is not much more; although, considering the game is meant to make you laugh – not melt your eardrums with audible awe – you couldn’t really ask for more, and it fits nicely with the overall theme.
Value and Longevity
Here is the crucial moment where Jazzpunk falls short. There is a point in the game where what seems like a simple transition into the next stage, all of a sudden, it comes to an abrupt halt. After a mere 4 hours of playtime, it was over. Granted, I’m sure I missed a bunch of hidden jokes, and probably some minor side quests in the missions – I don’t feel like I have to go back and do it again. I already got all my laughs the first time.
The problem is, there is nothing that makes me pine for a replay. Sure, I could select a chapter from the game and replay a funny level to, perhaps, show off to friends, but there’s nothing more. Sadly, the lack of longevity quickly turns it into a novelty game. I understand the game isn’t meant for a multiplayer experience, but including the ability to play some of their hilarious mini-games with friends would have been a nice touch. Maybe I missed something, but the problem is, I don’t feel invested enough to go back and look.
For developers Necrophone Games, Jazzpunk is a great next-step effort for their portfolio. It’s funny, it’s unique, and most of all, it’s a great time while it lasts. Unfortunately, the game is way too short for its price (On sale for $11.99 on Steam, normally $15.00), and fails to keep me invested in the long-term. I highly recommend it though for at least one play-through. So, if you happen to catch it on sale for under $10, do yourself a favor and pick it up.
What was your experience Jazzpunk? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, follow me on Twitter for gaming news, more beta-key giveaways, and sometimes, tweets about my bowel movements.