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Jazzpunk review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • Extraordinarily funny all the way through
  • Encourages exploration while still making it optional
  • Has an aesthetic quite unlike any other video game
  • Way too short
  • Like all humor, the jokes lose impact with each retelling

Summing up Jazzpunk in a single coherent sentence might actually be impossible. It's a comedy adventure experienced in first-person, with elements of noir, cyberpunk, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons throughout. Wait, let me try again: it's a game about pigeon smuggling, mainframe hacking, pizza zombies, and communist cereal. Actually, it's more like… screw it, this is going nowhere. All you really need to know is that Jazzpunk is downright hilarious, and even though it's over much too soon, exploring its surreal, silly world is an absolute hoot--the kind of hoot you just won't get from most modern games.

You play as the intrepid (and mute) agent Polyblank, thrust into a 3D world of cartoony espionage where cryptic oddballs wait around every blocky corner. At its most basic, Jazzpunk is a first-person puzzler without any central gimmick; it's more concerned with making you laugh rather than stumping your problem-solving capacities. There's never any explicit danger, time limit, or possibility of death threatening your sense of discovery, so you're free to putz around as often and deliberately as you like.

Polyblank is given a few key objectives on each trippy, placebo-induced mission, leaving it up to you to figure out how to progress through levels like colorful cityscapes or tropical resorts. The visual style is a blend of Blade Runner, 1950s advertisements, and classic cartoons, but the general look is pretty minimal (as in, 99 percent of the characters you encounter don't have limbs). Still, the environments are pleasant to look at, which makes exploring their every nook and zany cranny that much more enjoyable. Plus, you'll rarely get stuck on a puzzle, thanks to clear-cut visual cues for how to progress on your ludicrously strange mission.

But the fun of Jazzpunk doesn't come from racing to your primary goal. Instead, each level is stuffed to the gills with odd contraptions and absurd skits, the majority of which will make you snort with laughter (or at the very least, grin in appreciation). Many of these jokes-in-waiting lie far off the beaten path, giving them a gleeful Easter Egg-like quality. It's as though every computer terminology pun or wacky visual gag is a knowing wink between you and the developers.

I dare not spoil any of Jazzpunk's witticisms, because that'd be as offensive as saying "Here comes the funny part" during a screening of the latest comedy. Just know that, whether you're a fan of Looney Tunes, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, or Ren & Stimpy, you'll find something in Jazzpunk that makes you laugh out loud. The humor is universal, because even if you don't catch all the programming-centric wordplay, anyone can get a chuckle from cartoon slapstick. Jazzpunk's style is sometimes gross, but never profane; bizarre, but never hackneyed. You probably won't be laughing non-stop, but for every witticism you don't quite get, two others will make you snicker.

If only it would last a little longer. Even if you take the time to seek out every last thingamajig and one-sided conversation, Jazzpunk only lasts about two to three hours. To make matters worse, there's almost no replay value, because every joke will be at its funniest when you encounter it for the first time, totally unaware of what'll happen next. When it comes to pre-scripted jokes, there will always be a limit to how many can fit in one game--and while Jazzpunk crams tons of humor into a short amount of time, you'll undoubtedly be left wanting more. Like Octodad: Dadliest Catch, it seems as if the funniest games wrap up just as you've fully immersed yourself in their madcap world, leaving you wanting for what could come next.

But the content that is there has such brilliant wackiness. Video game humor usually caps out at an amused smile, or a pleasant chuckle; ridiculous glitches are the only things gamers seem to guffaw at in retail releases these days. But I found myself giggling like a bubbly schoolgirl (apologies for that mental image) over and over at Jazzpunk's unabashed absurdity. If you have an inclination for finding the funnier side of games, or you've been dying for the playable, cyberpunk version of Spy vs. Spy, Jazzpunk will be right up your weird alley. Delivery is crucial to the art of comedy, and Jazzpunk makes the act of finding the jokes just as humorous as the clever punch lines.

More Info

Release date: Feb 07 2014 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Adventure

Jazzpunk is uniquely ridiculous and undeniably hilarious. It's not afraid of making you work to find all the funny, which turns even the tiniest throwaway joke into something special.

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