The life of a stuntman, especially one of a certain age (and weight) can’t be easy. Joe’s descent to failure might never be highlighted in game, but his return to glory certainly is – from humble beginning to show stopping finale, Joe Danger is a brilliantly staged game, scripted by clever level design and player controlled spectacle rather than cut-scene and prose – and all the better for it.
It’s deceptively simple, too. Your motorbike’s accelerate, brake, jump, boost and trick functions occupy all four triggers and two of the face buttons without ever feeling complicated or contrived, and whilst the left stick’s mapping to Joe’s rotund lean might recall the Xbox 360’s Trials HD, Joe Danger dispenses with the hardcore attrition and saves the perpetual repetition for going back for the elusive 100% rather than progression.
Indeed, ploughing through Joe Danger’s main career mode of races, missions and collect-a-thons won’t take all that long, but it’s the clever ‘Star’ based set-up that’ll keep you coming back: each level has a set of additional conditions such as driving over all the mini stars, achieving a set amount of points, or comboing the level 100% – no mean feat when you’ve got dozens of traps, devices and structures to jump, avoid and navigate as you speed from left to right.
And then there’re the high score tables – one for each level – filtered by both your PSN friends and, of course, everyone else, and if Trials HD has taught us anything it’s that being number one against the rest of your mates is paramount – there’s plenty of live after you’ve beaten the game. The trick system is perfectly balanced, too, a real example of the risk reward notion working well. All out stunting tends to win the day, but careful riding keeps the combos going.
Away from the career, Joe Danger’s trump card is the expansive Sandbox mode, a built-in level editor that’s surprisingly deep and generous. There’s your usual smattering of pre-fabricated things to jump over and dodge, but there’s also a hefty set of building blocks, ramps and planks with which to build all manner of physics-based courses. Easy to use but powerful enough for us to expect great things from creative types, the only downer is the simple method of sharing the levels, which is by PSN message to friends only.
Multiplayer, sadly limited to local split-screen, offers up little more than a handful of dedicated levels and an additional elbow attack with the circle button, but despite not sounding particularly earth shattering it’s actually pretty damned good fun if both players are equally skilled. Of course, the two player mode takes full advantage of the Sandbox mode, too, and you can also share multiplayer levels.
It’s the visuals that are most striking though, in single player the rich colours of the South Western US setting seem to burst out of the solid 720p, 60fps display. The animation’s great, the various ‘deaths’ are often laugh out loud funny (if not a little long) and everything has a tangible, tactile look and feel that really brings the whole thing together – probably one of the best looking games on the PSN, Joe Danger is a really impressive title and a showcase to what’s possible with a dedicated team.
- Brilliantly addictive, high scores are compulsive
- Lovely sharp, rich graphics
- A total breath of fresh air on the PS3
- Multiplayer is offline only
- Frame rate halves in split screen
- Single player needs a few more levels
It’s good, really good. Hello Games might only be four strong but their first game has production values and a sense of purpose many retail PS3 games can only dream of. It’s a focused, concentrated game, apparently clear of feature-creep and publisher intervention, and manages to tick all the right boxes – let’s hope DLC down the line offers more levels and online multiplayer. In the meantime, don’t miss this one: seriously, it’s fantastic.