In the world of zany action movies, Joe Danger stands alone.
But because Joe Danger isn't a movie, it's a video game. The sequel to Hello Games' debut outing, Joe Danger 2: The Movie gives you control over the eponymous stuntman and his outfit of vehicles, power-ups, and more importanly, stunts.
But moving the game forward is difficult to do when you're making a direct sequel. How can you retain everything that made the original such a success, while also proving to yourself and consumers that you've got a head full of new ideas? On the road to victory, Joe's got ramps, flaming hoops, explosions, and more to contend with. Does he come out the other side a star?
I sat down the other night to try JD2 for the first time. It was like turning on Saturday morning cartoons on full blast and eating a bowl full of sugar dust. There's an undying cheeriness to Joe's world whether your brains are getting bashed in or you've been blown up. Alongside all of the fatal injuries Joe sustains, there's a splash of color and an overly enthusiastic announcer to distract you.
Joe returns to this land of madness for a gig in Hollywood, and there's no job Joe's too proud to accept. Whether he's ripping off blockbuster movie titles (like "Top Fun") or scaping the bottom of the barrel in "clichéd action sequences," Joe certainly has enough content. I would just like to ask "Why?" As wacky and off-the-wall as JD2 can be, there's an exhaustive quality to the game, as if nothing were done all the way in favor of doing lots of little things halfway.
Take some of the game's 20 vehicles, for example. The original Joe Danger's Excitebike-handling made it feel comfortable and warm for old-school platformers and racers. Unfortunately, the sequel loses some of that magical feel and spreads it around a grab bag of unneccessary additions. Notable among these is the unicycle and jetpacks. The floaty controls take away tactile responsiveness, and in a game all about high scores and perfectly timed inputs, that can be a deal breaker.
That doesn't mean Joe's completely out of the game. Some of the staples, including a minecart, are fun because they not only call back to Joe's heyday, but also remind you of Donkey Kong Country's breathless cart stages.
On the Xbox 360, Joe is controlled with the right trigger (go fast), the A button (go even faster), the X button (jump or duck), and the occasional addition. These three will be your bread and butter, but there's enough variation to keep you on your toes.
Each of the game's levels has different objectives, ranging from finishing the level on time to collecting all the stars on the track. Completing every objective contributes to your Pro medal, so there's plenty of incentive to head back and obsess over incomplete objectives.
Furthering replayability is the support for custom made levels, both single-player and multiplayer. If you've got a handful of friends who like silly, toony, slightly-loony score competitions, Joe and crew will certainly provide the playground, even if you'd rather set up the jungle-gym yourself.
Joe Danger 2 just feels like a step backward, a disappointing expansion that spreads itself too thin, as opposed to focusing in on what made the original such a breakout blast. New vehicles and new methods of play should be a rewarding break from a well-balanced core, not a distraction. If you loved the original Joe Danger, you'll get more of what you loved here. If you're just coming back from the lobby, it'd be smart to enjoy that popcorn whille it lasts. This one's pretty cheesy.