Don't be fooled by its looks. Joe Danger will challenge you til the end.
If I would ever design a re-imagining of Excitebike, I wouldn't do it any differently than Joe Danger. In many ways, Joe Danger takes the best things from Excitebike, adds its own magic, and makes an incredibly fun, easy-to-play, and surprisingly deep game.
[image1]There's hardly any backstory to supply us with a reason for Joe's drive to be a daredevil, other than the game's quick introductory cut-scene about an accident in the past and a fall from a successful career. But to be honest, who needs a story in a game like this? How would they explain the smiling moles, grinning missiles, and the happy-go-lucky announcer, unless the game is set in freaking Mushroom Kingdom?
Anyway... Joe Danger's single-player mode takes us through Joe's reformed career, mostly in races against the clock. Meanwhile, Joe's catalog of stunts is put to the test in the many medals you'll be earning on your way.
Levels start deceptively easy and become increasingly difficult, bordering on the insane, as you progress. No challenge becomes frustrating enough for you to quit in a rage, but if you have an ounce of OCD, you'll be replaying through the stages repeatedly in order to get all the challenge medals.
Medals are important because they act as currency for unlocking new races. You can simply complete levels without earning any whatsoever, but that won't get you very far. It's an incentive for you to improve your skills. At the same time, there are more than enough medals for you to unlock everything by playing through the game normally.
Each level has a set number of challenges, most of which you'll have complete on separate runs due to the design of the tracks or conflicting tasks. For instance, one level awards you a medal for finding secret items hidden away while offering another prize for finishing it under a certain time. Challenges are varied and balanced, which helps keep the game fresh from stage to stage.
[image2]Along with the extensive career mode, the easy-to-use track editor adds a lot of replayability to Joe Danger. Similar to Excitebike, the game places Joe on a clear track and as he rides, you get to place the objects that compose the track. You not only have complete control on the layout of the course, but also on which challenge medals it'll award the player. Created tracks can then be sent to other players and of course, you can receive them as well.
Multiplayer is also present in a few different modes that involve mostly what you'll be doing in single player, like races, stunts, and the such. Even though multiplayer is basically an extension of what the single player mode is all about, it's a fun option if you get tired of the computer-controlled drones.
Joe Danger is just charming, with an art style that looks great in HD and might make you think that it's a Disney or even a Nintendo game. Joe looks like a mix between Leisure Suit Larry and Super Mario, and the desert setting couldn't be more unlike what you might first imagine a desert to be - it's colorful and full of life, with a touch of The Wild West thrown in for good measure.
A nod also needs to be made towards the game's soundtrack, which is a pleasant mix of musak you can imagine yourself listening to in a shopping mall or an elevator - a far cry from the expected heavy metal vibe from motorcross. It's rather relaxing. The announcer also provides great voice work by delivering his only line of dialogue, "JOE DANGER!!!!", in different tones, but it can get a little grating at times, especially if you are repeating levels over and over again.
I'm the type of player who has a threshold of patience when it comes to trial and error games, and Joe Danger doesn't come close to crossing it. Far from it. With each challenge, I got better and wanted to get better still at playing the game, which shows just how strong the level design is behind its cutesy colorful exterior. This is one of the best downloadable games to come out on PSN - or just about any download service - and it's easily one of the best uses of $15 you will ever be offered.