[Review] Jazzpunk

Jazzpunk is a reviewer’s nightmare. I’m serious – the game is built entirely on jokes and nudge-nudge-wink-wink pop-culture references, to the point that almost anything mentioned about the game is a spoiler. The best way to describe Jazzpunk is that it is Let’s Play: The Game. In a time where Youtube culture dominates such a large part of our lives, it is no surprise that games like Jazzpunk gleefully jaunt onto our Steam pages and present themselves like a fish supper desperate for sauce.

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Gameplay: 8/10
That’s not to say that I didn’t like Jazzpunk – far from it in fact. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Jazzpunk, and for myself personally, the humour was excellent and hit the required pleasure centres of my tiny brain. Far from the “Hey remember that thing you know about well I know about it too look Look LOOK AT ME” style of the turgid Duke Nukem Forever, Jazzpunk delivers its references tastefully and subtly. Such was the extent of the classy restraint on the part of the development team, some references were even lost on me. This may seem like an oddly backhanded compliment to pay a game which has built its foundations stoically upon references, however in my opinion it shows how unforced and unobtuse the game’s nods to other franchises were. This, thankfully, doesn’t constitute the entire game’s content (I’m looking at you here Retro City Rampage). Rather, the game has a ridiculous but surprisingly easy to follow plot running through the game. Unlike its obvious influences, Blendo’s Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving, Jazzpunk’s purple-monkey-dishwater plot is clearly explained and actually makes sense in its own weird way.

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Artistic Merit: 8/10
In terms of presentation, Jazzpunk does borrow some things from the aforementioned Blendo games, however the characters themselves differ entirely from Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving, and this helps Jazzpunk develop its own identity away from its obvious influences. While not a GPU-straining, high-fidelity particle-a-thon, Jazzpunk’s art style is clean and effective, especially when being used in the game’s trademark humour. Musically the game is adequate – the tracks are very quiet apart from during several set-pieces, and fit the overall theme and mood of the player well. The issue I have with the soundtrack is that if you asked me to hum a piece of the OST to you or even recognise it from an identity parade of other pieces, I probably couldn’t do it. The sound design fares much better with the voice acting and sound effects. The latter are varied and always giggle-inducing – even the most mundane of sounds like swatting a fly becomes a joy while wearing headphones, while a certain Scarface reference made this reviewer have to pause and change his boxers. The voice acting – for the most part – is a hilarious selection of regional accents, with The Director in particular always drawing a grin from the player’s lips. My problem with the voice acting? The frankly abhorrent excuse for a Scottish accent by a certain hula waitress. You’ll know which one she is. Joking aside, the accents and vocal talents on show here are varied, competently handled, and execute the game’s fantastic writing to a T. The game also offers great variety in terms of its settings, with you as the hero Polyblank being whisked off to Russia, China, England, and a Tropical Island to name a few. Each offers a completely new set of objectives and characters to complete and interact with.

Cohesion: 7/10
The game’s framerate was rock-solid, and I was extremely impressed by the performance in general (I even managed to livestream it from my 6 year old laptop). It does suffer from the usual Unity pitfall in that the options menu is lacklustre in the extreme. VSync, fullscreen toggle, resolution options, and key rebinding are your lot here.

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Value: 4/10
My only real issue with Jazzpunk is that it’s just too damn short. My Steam profile says 3 hours, and I ambled through the story mode, stopping to mindlessly click at everything like a lab rat waiting for another piece of gorgonzola to be bestowed upon me. That horrible image aside, an experience which lasts all of three hours (maybe four if you want to go back and snaffle those achievements you missed) for me doesn’t really justify the £11.99 asking price. It is a blast, no doubt, but once you’ve seen everything it has to offer the game won’t keep you coming back time and time again.
All in all Jazzpunk is something that I believe every gamer should experience in some form, however the asking price is not at all a fair reflection of the game’s length and the time it will spend entertaining you. I didn’t get a review code for this game, and bought it on release for the introductory price of £10.79. Despite buying it cheaper than usual, I can’t help but feel slightly aggrieved at the length of Jazzpunk. That aside, the game is some of the best 3 hours you can have this side of Luigi’s Mansion, and is absolutely worth splashing out on if you see it for a reasonable price.

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Final Score: 7/10
Jazzpunk is a great, if short, experience that is only hampered by its lack of replayability and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it length. One for the sales.

 

Jazzpunk is available on steam for £11.99 http://store.steampowered.com/app/250260/

Joe Massie is a mopey teenager who spends far too much time rotting his brain with these new-fangled videogames and making videos nobody watches. Disagree with the review? Let us know down below, or tweet @FoolishAmoeba9.

 

Images used under creative commons, rights to respective publishers/ manufacturers.

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