Joe Danger has spent most of the year as a Playstation 3 exclusive; their version of Trials HD, if you will. This exclusivity has been bypassed with Joe Danger: Special Edition on the Xbox 360.
So, how does it differ from the version that was released on the PS3? Not only will you find all of the content from the PS3 reelase, but there is also something new, called ’The Lab.’ I’ll come back to that in a bit.
Anyone who has played Trials HD will find themselves instantly at home. The premise is almost exactly the same as RedLynx’s million selling game. You play as Joe Danger, an Evel Knievel style toy, who must navigate his way along a dirt bike stunt track from left to right. It’s not as easy as it might sound, with ramps to launch from, shark infested pools to avoid and hurdles to either duck under or jump over; all of which feel like they have just been pulled out of a toy box.
The game starts you off easy, giving you tracks that break you in with the controls. You use the right trigger to move forward and the left trigger to move back. The bumper buttons are there to pull off tricks and the sticks allow you to pull wheelies or spin in the air. To start off with, the controls feel quite natural. However they can become rather awkward when running through certain courses, or trying to complete tasks. It is in no way a game-breaker, but it would have been easier if they just used one bumper key for the trick system.
The game asks you to complete a variety of tasks in most levels. Each time you complete a task you are awarded a gold star; collect enough of these and you can unlock new course and progress through the game. Most of the tasks are simple enough, including collecting items or completing the course under a certain time. There are also levels that require more difficult objectives to be completed, such as finding hidden stars or collecting letters to spell out the word DANGER. The great thing about these is that you don’t need to complete all the tasks on a course in one run through (although there are levels that give you special bonuses if you do). You can concentrate on doing one task, replaying the level to try for another.
Some levels have five or six different tasks, which really promotes multiple play throughs of most levels. There are also Leaderboards to consider. As you complete tracks, you are greeted with your friends’ scores. If you want bragging rights, you need to play the level over and over again. The secret to a high score is in the tricks you pull off during a track. Learn that quickly, and you will soon find yourself at the top of the food chain.
As you get deeper and deeper into the game, the difficulty ramps up considerably. You have to prepare yourself for a long and painful slog to progress. You may also find yourself having to go back to previous levels to complete more tasks, as you may not have enough stars to progress. You may be surprised at how well you do when stepping back a few levels; you really get a sense that you are bettering yourself. I often found, at first, that some of the tasks were too difficult, so I left them. Then, when I returned, having played several more hours, those tasks seemed no trouble at all.
The new addition to this edition of the game is The Lab. At first glance, it is little more than another extra 30+ levels to go through, but scratch a little deeper and there are some real challenges to be found. The style of the game changes from the normal stunt track look, and gives the courses a test run feel. The tasks are still there to challenge you, but you also have the ability to edit tracks. In fact, some of the courses require you to play about with them in order to complete them. It is a great way to introduce you to the level editor, and with such a simple approach to it, you will be knocking out levels in no time. You can also share those levels with your friends for them to try out for you.
There is also the local multiplayer mode, which can be played with a friend, racing against each other. It’s not the meat and potatoes here, but just adds a little more to an already massive package.
The look that has been given Joe and his surroundings adds comic value to all of the inevitable bone crushing collisions that will be taking place. Giving it a more cartoon style over Trials’ more authentic look really makes the game a laugh a minute. The physics engine works well, making the crashes look hilarious. The music also fits the action really well, and when you press pause, you are greeted with music that fits the Evel Knievel era perfectly.
If there is one flaw with the game, it’s that extended play will cripple your fingers and hands. Whether that is just a problem with the controls, or that I was just holding onto the controller for dear life as I flew through a level, I will never know.
There will be times where you will turn the air blue and throw your dummy from the pram. However, there is nothing more rewarding than persevering and finally nailing a level (one level took me over 250 attempts). Joe Danger: Special Edition rides that fine line between frustration and fun perfectly.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher.