Most funny games aren't, well, funny. It's a problem that I think boils down to the length of games. Imagine doing a stand-up routine for seven hours. You'd drop some duds or dive into a bag of tricks repeatedly, right? "Comic Jumper" is one of the few games that manages to be funny throughout, and it's not just because the game is comparatively shorter than most -- it's because it cleans its slate often. I suppose it doesn't hurt that Twisted Pixel has a fantastic sense of humor and some great writers, but I didn't want to mention that thesis killer up-front. Oh, #$@&.
You are Captain Smiley, a modern comic superhero who has just lost his comic book franchise. Your sidekick, a brassy anthropomorphic star named Star, is out of the job too since he's incapable of removing himself from your chest. But in an odd turn of fourth-wall breaking events, developer Twisted Pixel offers the duo a job. The catch being that the two will need to star in other comic books in order to generate the cash needed to reboot their series.
The core of the game largely remains untouched despite the visual, artistic, and audio changes comic "jumping" brings. This is a 2D character-action title that, most of the time, acts like a grounded dual-stick shooter similar to SEGA's "Gunstar Heroes." But, it's important to know going in that the game offers numerous melee combat sections, as well as some more open-area, classic dual-stick shooting. I think it's also important to recognize that the humor in the game is as important as the action and structure. Without "teh funny," "Comic Jumper" wouldn't have a soul.
Excuse Me Sir, Do You Have Any Mustard?
"Comic Jumper" slides joke after joke to you in rapid succession. Most games that do this will start to grate or start tossing duds, but "Comic Jumper" manages to stay fresh and charming. Great writing and characterization, as well as superb voice acting, are the main reason why the game succeeds in this department, though I think the game's merry-go-round of new locales and characters helps with keeping material new and more effective as a result.
My, My, That's An Impressive Exhibit
"Comic Jumper" rotates four diverse styles: modern, "Conan the Barbarian," the 1960's-70's penciled Silver Age, and Japanese manga. Split into levels, each of these styles brings something new to the table, including enemies and objects. The sheer amount of assets churned out is stunning, and made all the more impactful by how impressively good all of it is. Twisted Pixel has also infused every level with its off-color brand of humor, both visually and in stereo.
Extras That Don't Suck
As you progress in the campaign or complete the game's Challenges, you'll earn money you can put towards leveling up certain statistics or purchasing classic kinds of "Extras" content, like, for example, developer interviews and concept art. That sounds stale, I know, but you'll be pleasantly surprised and entertained by the content. It's all rather funny and off the wall.
Am I Underwater? Or Does My Controller Have Water In It?
Ironically, action is where "Comic Jumper" falters. Maneuvering, whether on the ground, on a pole, in the air, or in a box, feels godawfully stiff, as if there's a few frames of animation that could have been added. There's also a woefully low amount of moves you can utilize to avoid damage, but I suppose that wouldn't matter considering you can't cancel out of attack or action animations anyway. Don't get me wrong -- "Comic Jumper" is very playable, it just lacks the fluidity, responsiveness, and relative complexity of a polished character-action title.
I've Seen This Part Before
There is a lot of fluff in "Comic Jumper." Repeat action scenes pad each level, extending the game's length in the most mundane way possible. You'll run up the same staircase and crash through the same boxes of glass in the Silver Age at least four times, or fight the same dinosaur fight in the "Nanoc" levels umpteen times, for example.
Bad Checkpoint Is Bad
Making the redundancy that much worse is the game's bad checkpointing. You'll have to fight many a stretch of fights over and over again as the game will set you back way before you died. There's also no health recovery system, adding to the pain.
It's a shame that the action in "Comic Jumper" isn't as smooth as it could be, but it's not the gameplay that keeps you playing. Its biggest strength and draw is one that few games, downloadable or retail, are able to boast: it's genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious. At the end of the day, you'll need to decide if you want to spend fifteen bucks on great art, writing, and passable action.