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Joe Danger 2: The Movie Review
In the distant past of 2011, Hello Games released a charming little homage to classic racers and platformers alike called Joe Danger. The game fused the 2D racing of Excitebike with the precision platforming and item collection of something like Mario, making it a unique and family-friendly option for a fun weekend of gaming. The sequel, Joe Danger 2: The Movie, released on XBLA last month and will be spreading to other platforms soon. Unfortunately, Joe's second outing suffers the same fate of many a Movie sequel and ends up feeling bloated and needlessly complicated thanks to its potpourri of gameplay styles.
It's clear that there was no lack of ideas when it came time to begin development on Joe Danger 2. This time around, Joe will find himself on skiis, snowmobiles, unicycles, mine carts and much, much more, in addition to his standard motorcycle. The motorcycle is actually pushed out of frame by all of the new cehicles, immediately giving the game the feeling of having strayed a bit from its roots. Of course, the other vehicles all control similarly to the classic bike with the exception of the jetpack, which assigns ascending to the accelerator and descending to the brake. It's a bit unwieldy at first, but you'll get used to it. In the end, many of the changes are cosmetic, not functional.
You'll ride all of these crazy vehicles through several movie-themed scanrios. Each in-game film will be based around one or more real-world counterparts, with films like Jurrassic Park, James Bond and Indiana Jones proving to be predictably broad targets.
The game's various missions will challenge you with a broad variety of objectives. You might have to trick your way through an entire stage while collecting coins or defeating baddies, or maybe you'll have to dodge a series of obstacles using the game's duck and jump controls. These controls, by the way, are assigned to the same button, meaning that you can't jump without first ducking. This is a really frustrating setup because you won't always need to jump after coming out of a crouch, but you do so automatically. The awkward controls will often send you flying face-first into obstacles that you would never expect to hit otherwise.
Similarly frustrating is the lack of free-form level design in this game. While the prequel had many levels that allowed you to take your time, explore and pull off sweet tricks, Joe Danger 2 features far too many "race for your life" levels in which you must outrun a timer or environmental hazard. These don't allow for the time or freedom to explore the levels, which seem small in scope in comparison to those of the last game.
Other objectives range from tedious to downright infuriating, with a level in which you must avoid eggs being chucked your way by a pterodactyl being particularly bothersome. Another fairly commond objective tasks you with landing on a set number of objects along a linear path before a timer expires. For example, you might be tasked with hitting six missiles before they launch, or smashing a group of dinosaur eggs along your path before they can hatch. These objectives are frustrating because they require you to get a certain amount of air in order to crush the obstacles while demanding that you maintain a consistent speed in order to get through the level on time. Your default jump is not high enough to crush the obstacles on the way down, so if you miss or otherwise mess up you'll basically have to start all over.
That's not to say that every level of the game is a wash. Some objectives have you shooting for high trick scores or racing other stuntmen, which fall more in line with the classic Joe Danger gameplay. Additionally, a new stealth objective type is actually a lot of fun. It places moving laser trip wires and other traps in your path. If you happen to trip an alarm, you don't get a Game Over, but the rest of the level does become more challenging.
Joe Danger 2 is one of those sequels that, for all its bombast and action, just can't top the simple grace of the original. Many of the new objectives fall flat, levels feels smaller is scale than they did before and the lousy jumping controls still leave a lot to be desired. That said, there is still fun to be had with the game if you can appreciate a solid 2D race. Just don't expect to skirt through the whole thing without a few moments of frustration.
This game was reviewed on Xbox 360