Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley treads a very thin line between immaturity and well-conceived humour. The context of this side-scrolling shooter pastiches anything from comic book genre to popular culture, via criticising society for their wrong-doings. Thing is, Captain Smiley sadly lay within the wrong side of this thin line, with Captain Smiley – a washed-up comic book hero who must regain his popularity with his audience by ‘jumping’ into other comics – and side-kick (a star) becoming increasingly annoying throughout the game’s well protracted run-through. Twisted Pixel, the team behind The Maw (humorously criticised in-game by the star for its paid DLC!) and ‘Splosion Man, often rely on poor puns and cheap gags sprouted from one of the most irritating side-kicks I’ve ever come across. One level sees him sprouting obscenity after bloody obscenity (bleeped, I may add) which just seems totally misjudged for the audience and really quite aggravating once the joke wears thin. Not to say the game doesn’t pick up some laugh-out loud moments, because it does, in which you can almost forgive Twisted Pixel (who appear within the game as themselves) for the other irritants. The game comes packed with insane and wayward characters, from floppy-haired, self-loving Brad (listen to the delightful accompanying music track) to the ‘wacky inventor’-type, the ‘Puttmaster’, and Captain Smiley’s character design, although somewhat muted, allows other ‘costumes’ to shine without withdrawing his characteristics.
Yes, Captain Smiley sees you take the lead role in a few different comic book genres, from the initial bold colourisation and explosive nature of the modern day ‘Adventures of Captain Smiley’ soon becoming a Conan-esque comic with you barbarically fighting off swathes of vultures, tribesman and other creatures, to a strip set in the Silver Age (a cel-shaded visual style with nods to societies’ shortcomings of the time) and, eventually, Manga (presented in black and white and frankly, rather quite bizarre). Moving from comic to comic through a interactive hub world which also allows you to go and upgrade your weapon stats, health or number of ‘Help Me’ special attacks available to you (seeing Twisted Pixel arms come flailing into view to destroy all enemies on screen), it’s the transition between scenes once your in the comic that we really enjoyed, seeing Captain Smiley forced from a comic book panel in 3D to another, all the while seeing artistic representations of the unfolded plot in the rest of the comic strip.
Split between short melee sections and traditional side-scrolling gun-play, Comic Jumper‘s mechanics are of the highest order, allowing you to aim in 360-degree space with the right thumbstick and fire using many of the face buttons or triggers, whilst jumping and sliding also lets you navigate the stages. It’s also a very tough game indeed, where patience is rewarded in learning each enemy types pattern of attack (especially in the well conceived boss battles). The non-regenerating health that depletes all-too-quickly will have you die again and again, although the checkpoint system is kept regular enough to avoid any major problems. The game also constantly flits between different gameplay styles, so a melee section will quickly revert to a side-scrolling run-and-gun, and onto an on-rails shooter. The relatively short time spent within each comic is also brilliant, lending the game a helping hand in remaining fresh and engaging visually, although if we have any minor complaints it’d be within the Manga comic, where the muted black and white strips often make seeing projectiles that much harder. We’d have loved to have seen different mechanics introduced in each stage but mostly it’s wishful thinking and might have withdrawn from the familiarity you feel to the controls in later stages, where you’ll be severely tested.
On the whole, Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley is a solid shooter that revels in delivering old school 2D gameplay with enhanced 3D graphics and unique visual styles. The humour and intended audience seem slightly to be at odds with each other, neither as smart as it thinks it is for adults to enjoy or child-friendly for younger gamers. That said, it mostly works as a whole package and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
MLG Rating: 7/10
Platform: Xbox 360 Release Date: 06/10/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of four days on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.