Going where no emoticon-faced superhero has gone before!
In today's economic climate, even comic book superheroes can lose their jobs. Such is the case for Captain Smiley, who after having declining sales for his own comic, ended up on the street. Lucky for him, the folks at Twisted Pixel were kind enough to give him a job to star in his own game and lend a hand to other comic book characters in trouble.
[image1]Twisted Pixel games so far have been extremely charismatic, 'Splosion Man being the shining example of how comical a game can get with a good writing crew backing it up. Comic Jumper is even funnier, thanks to excellent dialogue, voice-acting, and overall design.
Comic Jumper is a mix of different styles of games. You get to play a little bit of a brawler, 2D bullet hell shooter, quick-time events, and even a Sin and Punishment-type shooter in every level. Each of the three chapters of the game is broken up into three stages, each going through an unique period in comic book history. One, for instance, goes into a world heavily inspired by Jack Kirby's comics during the Silver Age of comics, exploring the heavy-handed racial stereotyping of the era to great effect.
Every one of these chapters has its own singular presentation, which influence how the dialogue is delivered, while completely changing the graphical style, gameplay, and even Captain Smiley himself. It would be a disservice to the game if I spoiled what styles of comics the game goes through from start to end; safe to say, all of them are beautiful and are a blast to play through. The Twisted Pixel signature for simple, well-animated character models is in full effect in Comic Jumper.
[image2]Comic Jumper throws a ton of jokes at you all the time, before, while, and even after you are done playing. Sticking to the comic book mold, cut-scenes are presented in dialogue bubbles or panels. The humor, though, comes through during actual gameplay in the exchanges between Smiley and his pal Star, who always gets of Smiley's nerves, amid all the havoc going on.
Like any good comic book character, Captain Smiley has his share of enemies, who make the jump through the comic eras along with him. They too have incredibly funny lines of dialogue and help to demonstrate how different comics have evolved over the years and around the globe. A certain villainess goes through the changes of female characters during the Silver Age, all while making poignant and observational stabs at that era.
It goes without saying, especially after 'Splosion Man's brand of difficulty, that a game borrowing elements from so many different genres can be extremely challenging. Thankfully, Comic Jumper sticks to a bearable level of challenge. Sure, there are some spots where you are bound to die a few times before learning enemy attack patterns, but there's never a section that are just plain impossible to get through. The game's checkpoint system could have been made a little more friendly, though, as there is a little bit too much of a space between save spots.
[image3]Boss encounters follow the formula of having predictable attack patterns and, like in any shooter, are very unforgiving if you do not find those openings. Twisted Pixel throws you a bone if you are stuck, though, in the form of a hilarious, extremely limited screen-filling weapon of mass destruction that kills everything in your path and refills Smiley's lifebar.
The majority of the cash earned will be spent upgrading Smiley when you finish each level. There's a large selection of game bonuses up for sale as well, including a host of behind-the-scenes videos, a dashboard theme, gamerpics, and even a set of extra levels for 'Splosion Man. Twisted Pixel does an excellent job of incorporating their past games into Comic Jumper by including them into Captain Smiley's base in spots you'd least expect to find them.
There's simply too much to love in Comic Jumper, from its well-done and thoughtful presentation and gameplay to the over-the-top hilarity of the writing. It's a very challenging mix of genres that just might be one of the best offerings available in the Xbox Live Marketplace. For 1200 Microsoft Points, The Adventures of Captain Smiley is a comic book series worth sticking with.