Joe Danger 2: The Movie Review
Joe Danger is colorful, rambunctious and just oh-so-difficult to put down. The original blew me away and while I wasn’t quite as enamored with the sequel, it was another great game that deserved your attention. Loaded with unbelievable set pieces and a ton of great content, fueled by an accessible, addictive from of gameplay reminiscent of Excitebike, Joe Danger 2: The Movie was demanding and ultra-fast-paced. Now, it has arrived on PlayStation Vita and while I’d still prefer to play it on PS3, the follow-up effort fits very well into the portable ecosystem.
As you might expect, those wonderful colors leap off the Vita’s screen. If a game can have a personality, Joe Danger’s would be wildly charismatic and thanks to the Vita’s stunningly beautiful display, we can really appreciate such charm. There’s nothing technically flawed about this particular handheld presentation, as the crispness and wide variety of the visuals are extremely attractive. The only downside is that given everything that’s happening with these wickedly active set pieces, it can be difficult to keep track of all the action. It was a tad overwhelming on PS3, too, and the Vita’s smaller screen doesn’t really help the issue.
But there’s no doubt that in terms of technical achievement, developer Hello Games deserves recognition. The graphics are great and the sound is equally impressive, thanks to top-tier sound effects and a raucous, cheerful soundtrack that always makes me smile. Every element of the audio seems specifically designed to improve your mood. Joe’s obviously having fun out there (even when it seems like he’s courting death every second), and you should enjoy the ride. I could’ve used a bit more variety in regards to the music but otherwise, this only reminds me just how solid and undeniably appealing these games really are. Vita owners are in for a definite treat.
The original just put you on a series of increasingly difficult tracks, where you could find collectibles, race opponents, and try to set speed records. As you progressed, things would get more difficult and you’d really need a light touch on the controller. In the sequel, Joe dives into elaborate movie sets, from an Indian Jones-themed set to Himalayan craziness amid a bevy of obstacles. The scenery continues to change as Joe rips through each stage and this time, he’s not limited to his trusty motorcycle. For instance, in reference to the previous two movie sets, he’ll sample snowmobiles and mine carts; at one point, Joe even hops on a unicycle. Yeah, lots more variety in the follow-up effort.
Of course, with bigger and more complex levels comes more obstacles and collectibles. From stars to bombs, you’ll be racing along, collecting what you want and desperately trying to avoid the roadblocks. You can even create your own levels in the very rewarding Movie Maker Mode, which delivers a bunch of different objects and traps with which to experiment. There are plenty of customizable options and of course, you can test out your creations along the way. The only downside is that in an increasingly “shareable” world, you can’t share these creations with your friends. Oh well, guess you’ll have to do what we did back in the day: Invite those friends over to check out your imagination and hard work. Yeah, real social interaction and all that.
Anyway, the frantic, over-the-top, utterly pell-mell nature of the sequel is a little disconcerting at first, especially if you spent a lot of time with the more ponderous levels in the original title. It’s quite the adjustment, I must say. At the same time, you can’t fault Hello Games for wanting to put more variety and content in the game and besides, it’s great to have alternate vehicles. They work really hard to keep the environments fresh and interesting throughout, and some of the set pieces are downright extraordinary. There’s always something to see and you’re typically grinning ear-to-ear while racing through it at top speed, desperately attempting to snag all the goodies.
The only downside is that with so much going on at once, you can miss some important things in the background. I noted this in my PS3 review and it’s all the more noticeable in the Vita iteration. I also can’t stand certain new collectible elements, like having one shot (and one shot only) at collecting the blue stars. One of the best aspects of the original title was its flexibility, in that it allowed a player to try and retry any given stage until they’d achieved all the objectives and snagged any collectible. That feels a bit more like a crapshoot and a chore in the sequel, which is a tad disappointing. The Movie is really just a wild, ADD version of the original.
That might sound too negative but you get my drift. I’m not the biggest fan of the jetpack levels but again, I won’t fault the developers for trying new things and besides, the control remains spot-on throughout (and regardless of your vehicle). Plus, there are more intriguing gameplay elements in the sequel, all of which combine to make the latest effort a more in-depth and rewarding title. Personally, I prefer the relative simplicity of the first game but then again, I’ve never been the biggest fan of ceaseless, eyes-bleeding side-scrollers. You just gotta know what you like. And if you want to compare and contrast your skills with other people in the Joe Danger universe, you can check out the online leaderboards.
Additionally, the Vita iteration features different costumes for Joe, including Sackboy (LittleBigPlanet) and the blocky dude from Minecraft. These exclusive character skins add a bit of flair to a game that hardly needs it, but PlayStation fanatics ought to appreciate it. If you loved Tearaway, which remains the best game on Vita, in my estimation, you can dress up Joe as Iota and Atoi. Combine this with already existing charm and charisma of the game, and you’ve got an endlessly attractive experience. Provided the overwhelming environments don’t frustrate you and you don’t mind the added speed and ferocity, you’ll have a blast.
Joe Danger 2: The Movie on Vita is basically the same great game it was on PS3, with a few minor cosmetic additions. The smaller screen makes some of the more chaotic levels that much more annoying, and you still can’t share your own creations. I’m also not sure about that jetpack, as cool at is. Even so, none of this should dissuade you from playing it, especially if you want a fantastic on-the-go game for your portable device. Honestly, it translates very well to the Vita and the game in question is about a million times better than similar mobile games. So, if you use your Vita quite a bit and you never played this on PS3 (or even if you did), I’d say it’s worth owning.
The Good: Beautiful, charming graphics with great effects and variety. Top-notch audio throughout. Very smooth and technically proficient. Plenty of new vehicles, collectibles and gameplay elements. Movie Maker Mode is definitely intriguing. Wildly entertaining and addictive.
The Bad: Certain movie sets can be way too chaotic. Jetpack levels aren’t perfect. Can’t share the levels you create.
The Ugly: “Damnit, I didn’t see that…!”
1/23/2015 Ben Dutka