Joe Danger: First great download game of 2010

Seriously, stick with us on this one. We can justify that statement. You see while Joe’s gleefully frenetic 2D hijinx are already a heady 50/50 cocktail of fun and adrenalin, they’re only half the story. Or a third. Or even a fifth. Seriously, stick with us.

Look at that screenshot. You’ll notice riders zipping along at multiple layers of depth within the screen. No mere aesthetic trick, that’s actually a fundamental part of the gameplay, and like everything else in Joe, it’s executed in an unexpected, inventive, and raucously giggle-inducing fashion.

As difficulty levels increase, tracks start to be made up of multiple lanes (we’ve seen a maximum of five so far), each dripping with their own dangers and delights. Razor-sharp switching between lanes is the key to success or failure, but this can only be done at certain designated lane change gates, or via particular lane traversing obstacles like the loop-the-loop in the screenshot up top.

Thus the Guitar Hero comparison comes in, as you’ll have to constantly flash your eyes back and forth, feverishly making split-second lane decisions based on risks and rewards, collectibles and giant mouse traps, safety and podium placings. And all the while dealing with everything we’ve already mentioned above. Dragonforce on Expert with nitrous boosts. That’s what we’re talking about here.

It's LittleBigPlanet with petrol

And for all of the devlishly-designed, seat-of-the-pants, cackle-happy speed-joy at play, Joe Danger is also a very clever overall package. Seeing us add LittleBigPlanet to a list of comparisons already taking in Sonic, Mario and Guitar Hero, you might be forgiven for thinking thatwe’ve been on the cider again (opens in new tab), but with its smooth integration of gameplay and customisation, Joe Danger absolutely warrants the reference.

Far from just an isolated option on a menu, Joe Danger’s editing tools are completely integrated into the main game.On some levels, for example, you couldstumble upon a coin collecting challenge that just doesn’t seem possible. And it won’t be. Becauseinstead ofimproved riding skills, you'll need an improved track layout. So you'll pause the game, crack out the editor and start modifying the environment. In real time. As you ride it.

Other times you might be charged with finding a way to make a monsterously long jump. But do you built one massive ramp and hope you can build enough speed on the way up? Do you try a ski jump affair? Or how about a fun but risky series of spring platforms? In Joe Danger, the fun isn’t just in completing stunt challenges, it’s in messing around with the very fabric of the challenges in order to make both them and their solutions entirely your own.

Andof course you can use the sandbox tools to build your own levels from scratch (indeed, they’re so versatile andeasy tomaster the team at Hello used them to create and test a lot of the game itself), and that creates a whole new sub-game of online one-upmanship.

Say your friend makes a level and sends it over to you. You play it. You enjoy it. But how about if you then fire up the editing tools and make it a bit harder, before sending it back? Then how about if he mocks your attempts to affront his design skills by doing the very same? And then you do the same again. Eventually, by simple nature of gamer pride, you’ll have enjoyed several hours of what can only bedescribed as game design chess, and created a finely-honed uber-level between the two of you. It’s playful, it’s creative, it’s original, and it’s densely packed with fiendish hardcore appeal.

But then, from what we’ve played of it so far, that’s Joe Danger all over.

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.