I love a good spy movie, but I’m just as fond of movies that lampoon the genre, like the Naked Gun series of films. Everything is so serious that it makes a really great target for satire. Jazzpunk does this not only for spy and espionage games, but also for video games in general. It’s a fun, crazy experience that, while unfortunately a little short, is still very memorable.
Jazzpunk features Polyblank, a secret agent in a sort of alternate universe Cold War era. The game is best described as a first person adventure – players navigate the world, finding and using items to complete objectives and missions. These missions are really just a rough framework though, an excuse to get the player out into the world. Jazzpunk is as much about exploration of the environment as it is about accomplishing objectives.
The game features several locations, each functioning as a sort of miniature open world. Exploration led me to characters with humorous dialog, side activities and the occasional mini game. There’s no death in the game and no element of time, so after a while I just started to meander around, eventually reaching my goal once I’d checked everything out. Whether making photocopies of my butt or playing Wedding Qake, a first person shooter with wedding cake chainguns and champagne cork shooting bottles as weapons, my curiosity was always well rewarded.
For a game with intentionally simplistic character models Jazzpunk is still eye-catching. The world is bright and vibrant, and the environments have a nice variety. Occasionally there is a close-up of a hand or foot, and the art style is so reminiscent of John Kricfalusi’s Ren & Stimpy that I had to Google and see if he was involved in the game (he wasn’t).
Beyond that visual similarity, Jazzpunk just feels like it was made for someone in my age range (mid 30s). I found an NES cartridge, a man encased in carbonite and I swear there is a character with the voice of Dr. Sbaitso. The nostalgia walks a fine line – the game is packed full of references but manages to never overwhelm or become tiresome, which is impressive.
Jazzpunk is certainly enjoyable, but it isn’t without its flaws. Even taking my time to explore, I was still finished in two hours. Take into account that I had to replay 20 minutes after I got stuck and had to reload (the game doesn’t auto save), and that time gets even shorter. There’s nothing inherently wrong with short games, but even with that short of an experience Jazzpunk still manages to have a few sections that miss the mark. They weren’t bad, but they failed to hit the high standard set by the rest of the game, which was disappointing.
As a “game” Jazzpunk could be completed in less than an hour, but running through to complete the story would be missing most of what makes it so enjoyable. The game (and its achievements) are structured in a way that encourage players to wander around and see everything there is. Even having completed the game I’ll be going back through it again, just to catch some of the things I missed. While I wish it was $10 instead of $15 it’s still about the cost and length of a movie, and I can’t remember the last movie I enjoyed this much.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.