The days of Evel Knievel may be long gone but the daredevil stuntman’s spirit rides on in Hello Games’ PSN-exclusive Joe Danger. One difference between Joe and Evel? Besides the whole “reality” thing, Evel never saw the absurd Trials HD-style obstacle courses Joe needs to navigate.
Most comparisons to Joe Danger do often bring up Trials, and for good reason. Those familiar with the spirit-crushing difficulty of the latter will find refuge in Joe Danger, as the same basic premise (and controls, to an extent) are present in Trials without the obscene and frustrating ramp-up in difficulty. There’s always the same goal in a Joe Danger track: finish by any means possible. Moving from left-to-right often accomplishes that quite nicely, though a number of ramps, traps, springs, walls, buildings, and explosives may stand in your way.
A unique attribute of the game is the way in which the bike controls. You can accelerate, reverse, and lean in the same Trials fashion, but ducking, jumping, and some rather insane flips and tricks accompany a turbo power to create a rather bizarre hybrid of a motorcycle and Mario. While the game certainly doesn’t move as quickly (or slowly, depending) as a 2D Mario title might, the level of precision demanded within the platforming sections is eye-opening. Moving up a halfpipe at turbo speed, leaping over a barrier and positioning the cycle to fall in between two walls of spikes is unbelievable. You’ve never seen a biker like Joe.
An overarching goal in Joe Danger lies in collecting stars, which will unlock new tracks and ultimately progress the game. Accomplishing specific tasks within each level will issue a new star and the variety in the different challenges the game presents keeps each mission feeling fresh and unique, although you’re still doing the same essential actions in order to reach the finish line. Once the difficulty does reach its pinnacle, you’re still able to revisit previous missions and collect easier stars, avoiding the soul-crushing absurdity of the later tracks. Seriously, shark pits, spikes, AND explosives?
Interspersed nicely throughout the various chapters of Joe’s return to glory (sound familiar?) are levels in which Joe becomes a bowling ball on wheels, changing the perspective to a full 3D, behind-the-back angle and tasking you to navigate the cocky biker into giant bowling pins. Earning a typical strike may net you a star, while at other times, larger, heavier pins (along with explosives) are placed to bump up the challenge.
A level editor is available for offline single, multi, or online competitive play in which Joe Danger junkies can issue “Oh yeah? Then beat this!” challenges to their friends. It’s a satisfying addition to an already bountiful game and aspects of the mode occasionally sneak into the single player levels, although it feels more like a PSA than an actual variation to the missions.
There aren’t many downsides to owning Joe Danger. Aside from a few framerate issues in the final stages of the game, the crushing difficulty that accompany them, and a supremely annoying announcer there’s no reason you shouldn’t throw people out of your way in hot pursuit of your PSN account. It’s a lengthy experience with bang-for-your-buck that’s just a load of fun to play. Simple, right?
Things We Liked: Challenging, yet enjoyable gameplay. Great level design and variation. Difficulty ramps up much more gently than in Trials HD.
Things We Disliked: Noticeable technical issues in final stages. Crushing later levels. Annoying announcer. Level editor feels like an afterthought.
Target Audience: Completionists. High score junkies. Evel fans. Those who were put off by Trials HD. Platformer enthusiasts. Speed freaks.
(Joe Danger – Developer: Hello Games. Publisher: Hello Games. Available on PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Unfamiliar with CFD!’s review system? Read our newly revised explanation here.)