Review: Comic Jumper

When I first caught wind of Twisted Pixel’s latest project Comic Jumper, I was mildly excited. It seemed new and interesting enough. The Maw was appropriately adorable and ‘Splosion Man had a good vibe to it, but ultimately was not for me. But because I thought the Twisted Pixel crew had a decent booth set up at PAX East earlier this year, I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about.

As it turns out, a whole lot of nothing. Comic Jumper is a derivative, infuriating mess of failed attempts at humor, finicky platforming, and poor hit detection. Also, I hate Captain Smiley. And that’s me being polite.

The premise of Comic Jumper is actually what pulled me in. Captain Smiley, essentially an anthropomorphic emoticon with the most grating sidekick of all time, Star, is a comic failure. His series has been cancelled. It sucks. Of course, he can’t afford to get it started up again. So what does he do to make some quick cash? He looks to Twisted Pixel for jobs that require he and his Vegeta sound-alike of a severely unfunny sidekick to “fix” other comics, or as I like to say, drag them down with him. If it were anyone else, perhaps this plot might work. Unfortunately, chronically clueless Smiley and Star’s abusive banter ruin the whole thing.

To be fair, Comic Jumper’s humor may well be an acquired taste. Regardless, for the game to be any kind of success it needs to be fun rather than relying on its characters to propel it forward. And to be honest, I could not find much to enjoy about it or even the overly-hyped act of “comic jumping,” which in retrospect I thought would be a much more interesting spectacle.

Comic Jumper is centered around making these jumps; different missions sponsored by the “real life” Twisted Pixel, as the game reminds you over and over. Each “jump” consists of a rather boring scene and costume/weapon change to match the genre and title. Smiley and Star receive appropriate makeovers in order to fill in for the selected comic’s usual protagonist. These range from prehistoric action to manga and each level’s art style reflects the change in genre appropriately. Unfortunately, the levels themselves offer much less variety.

Run to the right, run to the left occasionally, shoot, melee, fight a boss. Repeat the same steps until you’re ready to bash your head in. Dozens upon dozens of enemies ensure that any fun you may have been having is completely obliterated. Its frustrating difficulty is obviously a nod to an era long gone, but in order for that type of difficulty to be fun and challenging, it has to be because you lack skill, not because the game is designed poorly. Bullets rarely feel as though they’re connecting properly. When caught in a seemingly never-ending stream of enemies, sometimes it’s more prudent to simply run past rather than stand your ground and attempt to fight simply because of how boring it is.

And the game doesn’t let you forget for a second if you’re low on health or simply failing to meet what it sees as its frenetic pace. It does this with an extremely annoying mocking tone —  I am perfectly capable of keeping track of my health gauge, thank you very much. When you die, and you will frequently, Captain Smiley’s snide remarks as he dissipates into a very Mega Man-inspired burst of energy also become quite tiresome. “Youuu suuuck!” he cries, as you reload your last checkpoint. The first few times may be cute, but the last thing I want is a mediocre game commenting on my ability to play it.

Aside from being a rudimentary side-scrolling shooter, Comic Jumper attempts to wear other hats. Occasionally, you’ll enter Rez-lite “shootouts” that require you to fight with the reticle in order to take out enemies in rail-shooting segments. Action-oriented sequences require strategic button presses simpler than anything found in the first level of a rhythm game attempt to mix things up, but end up as more of a headache than anything else.

I could deal with all of this if dying weren’t so frequent and so much progress weren’t lost when I fumbled. Starting over from a checkpoint easily a half hour away is nothing I want to do, especially when it involves completing the same objectives over and over. It wasn’t that fun the first time, so an improved save system beyond hoping you made a checkpoint is sorely needed here. Sure, I could set aside more time to compensate for my mistakes, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care enough to replay entire segments involving defeating the same minibosses three different times in the same level.

The game looks decent enough. The different types of environments you jump into at the very least keep your attention long enough to check out the scenery and the subtle nuances of the different art styles. And I enjoyed progressing to something other than the absolutely dreadful first couple levels before I stopped and could bring myself to care no longer.

It’s one thing to be a shining example of a great game and be cocky enough to tease your players, and it’s another entirely to be a terrible game and behave as though you’re worth every penny spent. Comic Jumper felt little more than a rehashed Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project with lofty goals and an interesting concept at the onset, but ultimately fails in execution. I can’t recommend it for its humor or its gameplay, really, but I do like Twisted Pixel and their track record so here’s hoping their next offering isn’t so abrasive or so haphazardly slapped together. And please, no more Star. Ever.

Comments are closed.