Too busy to devote 12+ hours a day to your gaming habit? Here's a review that's sensitive to your needs: Short and focused on just the things that a busy gamer like you really needs to know.
Reviewed On: Xbox 360.
In a Nutshell: Shoot everything that moves, except for the things you bash and kick. Really, that's pretty much the game. Comic Jumper is primarily a platform shooter, with some rail shooting and a few brawler parts. The punching and kicking is easy - there's not much to it except for timing - but the shooter parts are intense. Enemies will flank you, throw or shoot stuff at you - and you'll need quick reflexes and persistence to make it through.
The game is quite deep, with upgrades to help you beat later sections and the insanely tough "one hit = death" challenge mode levels. You begin in a modern comic world filled with female robot enemies and a nemesis who resembles Duke Nukem in both attitude and appearance. You then get canceled (in an unexpected live action montage) and then get hired to make guest appearances in Conan-style fantasy, '60s Silver Age and black-and-white inked manga adventures. Each comic style presents new challenges, which keeps the game fresh as you progress. A few really tough sections may test your resolve to finish, but I never rage quit in frustration (as I'm sometimes prone to do with these sorts of games) and eventually powered through to the end.
Learning Curve: If you've played a platform shooter, you'll pick up the basics right away. But the game contains a number of unexpected variations and boss fights to keep you guessing. For one boss battle, you'll lose some of your reaction time and get clobbered if you don't figure out when to stop your attack and back off. But for the most part, there's nothing new to learn - though it may take some time to master.
The Save Game: This is where Comic Jumper earns its only real bad mark: There are mid-level checkpoints so you don't have to play the level back from the start if you die, but they're only good as long as you leave your console running. The game only saves progress at the end of each rather lengthy and usually challenge-ridden level. We asked Twisted Pixel lead engineer Mike Henry about this at PAX Prime (full interview), and he claimed it was for unspecified "technical reasons." In retrospect, we should have dug deeper: Other games pull it off, so why not this one? It's not like the game records the placement of every fallen adversary. More than likely, this limitation was more about trying to appeal to the hardcore gamers who don't mind staying up late to best a level. We busy gamers lose enough sleep to work and family issues; we don't need it from our games, too! Despite par times of 10-15 minutes, it took me 30+ minutes to beat most levels - so plan accordingly.
Family Factor: The constant shooting and off-color humor make Comic Jumper strictly for teens and adults. The game makes a lot of sexist and Asian racist jokes - played off as parody of retro comic makers' attitudes of the day - but occasionally they go a little far and your smaller kids won't get the joke. And while there's no blood, there are a ton of bullets flying; I easily unlocked the achievement for 125,000 shots fired. You won't want your young ones to even watch you play it, which relegates this to the post-bedtime gaming ghetto - unless you're blessed with a tot who takes long naps.
Buy or Skip? Despite our complaint about the save system, the gameplay is great and a lot of fun. Get the trial version and if you enjoy the first taste, we recommend a buy.
On a Personal Note: I tried Comic Jumper at PAX and was not overwhelmed. I picked up a controller on a game already in progress on a Conan-styled Nanoc level and didn't know how to shoot (right thumbstick) so I mostly jumped and punched and died a lot as dinosaurs chomped me, natives barraged me with chickens and large birds picked me up and tried to carry me away. But many a poor PAX demo impression has masked a great game, so I vowed to try it when it came out - and I fell in love with it.
I'm still not entirely sure why. Probably due to the (mostly) tight controls, rewarding gameplay and humorous situations (often funnier than the actual jokes). And the music! There is Captain Smiley's hilarious ringtone, his arch-nemesis Brad's theme song and even a ditty that recounts your stats (listen to our podcast audio review for samples and download the free ringtones).
I've finished all of the levels and unlocked every bonus (a few hundred items including videos, 3D models, readable comics, music, a dashboard theme and even bonus levels for Twisted Pixel's 'Splosion Man). And I'm still playing, trying to complete the difficult challenges just for the pure fun of it! Hint: Upgrade your firepower first since it can help you most - and you can collect quick cash to unlock more upgrades and bonuses.
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