It is a rare feat. Making a game that entertains after the first minute is difficult enough, but creating one that’s as entertaining after the first hour, day, and week – now that’s hard. The people at fledgling Hello Games did precisely that with PSN downloadable title Joe Danger, a romping good time that never stops to entertain, combining genres and game styles into an habit-forming synthesis that can charm to the youngest and most casual gamers just as much as the committed, hardcore crowd.
Joe Danger resists easy classification, and a glance at the screenshots only helps a bit. There’s definitely a touch of racing just like the classic Excitebike, and obstacle navigation that recalls the popular Trials series. What that first look could not tell you is how the game chucks equal inspiration from the combo systems of Tony Hawk, the creative drive of LittleBigPlanet or the speed-fueled platforming of 2D Sonic.
Joe is a grizzled, run-down stuntman, whose previous injuries have kept him away from the circuit for years. When he returns, he really must wow the crowd to return to the top. To do so, you will pilot him through a large number of obstacle-laden courses, each of which comes with a number of goals. Gather all the stars. String a combo throughout the whole level. Land on perilous targets around the course. Beat the time limit. Or, for the really big scores, start fusing objectives into a single run. Each achievement nets you buying power to unlock newer levels.
Things appear so simple initially. The responsive and tight controls only uncover their magic through time, and Joe’s bike starts managing acrobatics that should not be possible. The bike can switch its momentum in midair and move backwards. Bouncy springs send the stuntman lunging through the air. The magnified physics are expertly balanced to be comical but predictable. The high level of accuracy gives players the same control they would have over an old school platform character, but here there’s the additional ability to put in flips, boosts, and wheelies. Almost every action casts off points up on the board.
It’s everything a majority wants a game like this to give – fun, scalable challenges that are available to all players, with virtually infinite replay value. While Joe Danger forks up an amazing wealth of levels and content for a downloadable game, it grounds on 2 other huge extras for fun. Split-screen multiplayer has only a couple of levels, but does extend a great way to acquaint friends to the title. The second big addition helps to ease that depth of content; players can make and share online single-player and split-screen levels with friends. The level creator is straightforward and easy to use, and assures all sorts of additional playtime if you ever manage to force through the exceedingly challenging levels at the close of the core game.