Review

Jazzpunk

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How do you describe the indescribable? How do you explain the inexplicable?

Let’s see if we can sort through the absurdity and hilarity of Jazzpunk to get a better picture of this peculiar curiosity.

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What You Need to Know

I’ll start with what I know.

Jazzpunk is a first-person adventure game presented in a retro-futuristic aesthetic, taking place in a world either highly influenced or controlled by the Japanese. This world is solely inhabited by robotic characters who, in form, take inspiration from the classic ‘Woman’ and ‘Man’ iconography you might see adorning public restrooms. Playing as a secret agent, you will at times be tasked with infiltrating buildings and situations in order to retrieve highly sought after equipment and data, working for an alcoholic director who takes to sleeping behind his desk.

This is about all I can say for sure, because it gets shaky from here.

The world, to my eye, looks like a playable Technicolor Hanna Barbera cartoon, with ridiculous non-sequitur humour influenced by the funnier goofs you might have seen in a National Lampoon or Naked Gun movie – at one point you can look through a viewfinder high up on a balcony overlooking a holiday resort, only to see the classic James Bond opening sequence play out while looking down the barrel of a gun, and when you exit the viewfinder, there’s James Bond in front of the lens…

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Or how about, after helping a woman rid her vase shop of flies by swatting them away (and breaking most of her merchandise in the process), you can go into the street and swat passers-by, who then turn into flies and fly away. Then there’s the time when I was combing a beach for items and I came across a video tape with a movie titled ‘Ghost in the Taco Shell.’ Next-to the tape, out on the beach, was a return slot for the video store embedded in a rock. I returned the video.

I could keep going (and those aren’t even remotely the best gags), but I wouldn’t want to spoil anything because this is what Jazzpunk is all about: An endless stream of groan-worthy robot and data jokes involving eProms, Bitmaps and .RAR, a dozen mini-games inspired by Frogger, Street Fighter, Quake 3, Warcraft and the Virtua Boy, and constant references to games and pop culture from the 60s to today.

And it’s all hilarious – this I can also say for sure.

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You’ll Enjoy Jazzpunk If You Liked…

… The best (goofy, corny, cheesy) jokes from National Lampoon and Naked Gun movies.

… the conspiracy theory level in Double Fine’s Psychonauts.

What I Liked

There are simply too many examples of how Jazzpunk sent me into laughing fits, too many instances in which it impressed me with the developer’s references, and too many times that it surprised me with a new gag out of the blue – I can’t list them all. Suffice to say that the frequency with which I exclaimed “This is crazy!” out loud to myself and no-one else in particular was very high.

The humour is relentless, random and unexpected, and even when a single gag is used multiple times it’s always in a new, fresh way. Despite having complete control of the pace of the game, the developers have also somehow managed to achieve something equivalent to near-perfect comic timing – something I find difficult to describe without ruining a bunch of jokes, so I won’t try here.

Favourite Moment

There are many, many favourite moments, but an example of Jazzpunk’s humour and how the developers use attention to detail to build on a joke can be seen with the Frogger mini-game, where you’re trying to help a frog cross a busy street to get free wi-fi. If you get run over, the frog gets a cast and a crutch on his leg. If you try again and get run over again, the frog gets another cast. A few more times and he begs you to stop.

Maybe a lame example, but these sorts of instances litter the game world and can be found in almost every corner.

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What I Didn’t Like

- 2.) There seems to be a backstory for the main character that is glimpsed in a few short sequences, but it doesn’t go anywhere at all.

- 1.) Some of the background music samples are short and loop very noticeably – I can’t tell if that was intentional or not, but it did eventually get on my nerves.

Least Favourite Moment

Realising that the game had ended… and even then, the moments leading up to the playable credits sequence and back to the title screen are hilarious.


Jazzpunk Trailer


What’s Extra?

You’ll be able to play at least one of the mini-games from the menu (‘Wedding Qake’) once you’ve completed Jazzpunk, but despite the game’s brevity (it can be completed in under two hours if you mainline the story) it’s possible that you’ll only ever find all of the gags and references after you’ve played it a few times over.

The Bottom Line

Jazzpunk definitely won’t be for everyone, but everyone will be able to appreciate its absurdity. If you love to chuckle, guffaw and sit in stunned silence before collapsing in riotous laughter, you might just love Jazzpunk, too.


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