Joe Danger's a pretty cool dude. He might not have the crowds he used to for his crazy motorcycling antics, but he's ready for a comeback! And—what a coinkydink!—Joe's making another comeback on the 360!
So who is he, you youngsters might be asking yourselves? Well, for the aged among us (or "time-experienced", if you will), Joe is a daredevil from a bygone era—the 1970s and Evel Knievel, specifically—known the world over for death-defying stunts on his bike. Big air, back-flips, front-flips—you name it, he'll try it. The tracks are set up for not only maximum hang-time but multiple playthroughs, with special challenges to achieve each time instead of perfecting runs for the sake of online leaderboards.
And damn, this game is pretty. The animation is cartoony and smooth, even when there are multiple racers on the track and big stumpy things pounding the dirt on screen at once. Restarting a race, which will happen sometimes an obscene number of times is a single-button press away. It's impressive just how quickly things can load up and run.
Controls are simple but take a little getting used to: one button to crouch/jump/double-jump, one to boost, the triggers for gas and reverse, and the bumpers to perform tricks in those big air moments. The boost is tied to a meter in the corner of the screen which is easily refilled by tricks and popping a wheelie when on the ground, but what's a bit frustrating is that the boost isn't always available; it's difficult to tell just what triggers it beyond a string of successful tricks as it seems more intermittent than it should be. There are a few good training stages and an entire mode dedicated to sharpening certain skills, and everything takes a steady climb instead of throwing you into the shark tank, so grasping the fundamentals is easy.
Thankfully, the puzzles are both engaging and entertaining. A handful, though, can really be a bear. When you start a stage over, it will tell you how many attempts you've made up to that point, and I had multiple stages that had me playing over thirty times each (my high was 56 or so) to reach not only the end, but collect the necessary coins/stars/targets necessary to move forward. Oddly enough, it never really wore on me, playing through the same level so many times. It wasn't over-bearing necessarily, since it has that kind of masochistic fun reminiscent of games like Excitebike where you knew a stage was possible, and any deaths or stoppages are entirely on you.
And speaking of Excitebike, the level creator is right up there with ease of use. There are a ton of options to choose from to make yourself the ultimate run, whether you're going for sheer difficulty or massive air. No need to unlock special obstacles or set-ups, everything is available from the word "go" and with only a few button presses away. I made one pretty quickly just to help me pull off bigger tricks, allowing myself to launch my bike over a long string of lined-up busses trying to Superman my backflips for as long as possible. Being able to share levels with friends is really cool too, though I don't know if the thrill of new stages will hold up by the end of the main game; I've gotten the feeling of "played it once, played it all" by the finish line.
Joe Danger Special Edition is a real blast to play and gives me some hope for the nostalgic gamer in all of us: a solid game that reminds me of some great games of yore, with a few updated ideas, sharp controls, and a visual appeal that has me giggling, especially when I crash as a chimp wearing a cape and goggles that bounce up and down on a large bumper like a rag doll. No direct multiplayer is a bit of a shame but understandable for the way stages would play out (one knockdown and you're screwed). Beyond that, I can't see why nobody told me about Joe sooner!