For a moment, imagine yourself as a man! A manly man, with dangly bits all included. Now conjure alongside you three of your other man friends and take yourself on a night out. The night turns out to be fantastic! Everything said to each other is a hilarious gaff and leaves you all in stitches. The night runs smooth and functions all to perfection. It also looks pretty amazing as well and at the end of it all you and your four friends end up asleep with stupid grins on your faces. The same stupid grins you get when you finish a box of Tic Tacs, stick your nose in and enjoy the minty fragrance for numerous times after the potent pellets have gone.
This is what I imagine Hello Games are doing right now: Sniffing empty confectionary boxes in one hand whilst constantly on nights out poking each other in their bellies trying to get each other to cry rainbow tears. I know this may sound like an entire leap of the imagination but I don’t think it is far from the truth, because all of this is evident in their freshman title, Joe Danger.
Hello Games are living the indie dream. Composed of just four guys who worked for Criterion, Sumo, Kuju, EA and Climax, then left the heights of these profound studios to create their own little tummy giggling titles and now, after little more than a year of being together, their first title is out there and after a place on your XMB.
Joe Danger is a stunt rider who, after falling from grace in the stunt riding world is once again straddling the rumbling engine of a motorcycle and wants to impress the world. It’s a simple concept for Hello Games to land on for their first title, but keeping it simple is what they do to a rousing chorus. And there’s no reason to feel sorry for or doubt Joe’s confidence, because he is the full package right from the off.
Steaming along the colourfully animated side scrolling race-ways, over ramps, bumps, buses, and shark infested pools, it’s a world that looks so inviting, and is so bone-crunchingly exciting it is hard to pull the throttle back. However JD is not all about flips, superman’s, cowboys and the odd crowd wave, even though you’ll be pulling tons of these out as second nature in no time. JD has an extra detail, something that Hello Games have pumped into each and every pixel. Whether it’s the teasingly difficult platforming elements, which will challenge you not just to bandy your way across the world, but get you to explore and vary your approaches to the course, or the physics system – quite common to bike-trails flash games – being a bit more forgiving and not to any detriment of the joyful playing style. JD might bounce off his helmet from time to time, but the bike can be manoeuvred with precision and superb control. The joy of the physics of JD is there to, on the one hand, let you feel in complete control whilst performing a wheelie across an entire level or poising yourself on the edge of ledges before bombing down into the next ramp, whilst on the other, making flips and turns in the air play out with semi-realistic accuracy. With all of these compelling elements delivered to such an acute degree, it’s almost a scary prospect to think that this is Hello Games first title.
Even though all these key elements make this an already intriguing stunt game, JD packs so much more into its £9.99 delivery. Race modes, a level creator, local multiplayer and active online leader boards that coax you into keeping up with how well your friends and players around the world are doing, keeping you playing long after the final stage.
The levels themselves are usually broken down into a number of key objectives. Collecting coins, hitting a certain score, getting 100% combo over the entire area are just some, and the cunningly addictive element is that it is up to you to decide which objective you take and in which order. Progression in the game is a mix between completing levels and collecting the stars gained from completing these missions. So something you can’t complete or are not really diggin’ the first time round is of no concern, you can ride back later to try it again.
This freedom is a welcome accompaniment to this already very full title. For the price tag you’re getting a game that many triple A studios would be happy to release after a few years of working together, let alone as a first entry. What JD offers is quite rare in major releases but is what could become quite common with future Hello Games releases. This is a title that is so joyous to play, that leaves you giggling and shamelessly howling out with smiles and gurns on such a regular basis that when JD tests your skills to a surprisingly challenging degree it really is hard to become frustrated.
Quite simply, Joe Danger is probably the most charming and charismatic title you’ll play all year.
MLG Rating: 9/10
Platform: Playstation 3 Release Date: 09/06/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Joe Danger for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of four days on a Playstation 3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.