Times are tough for the hardy species known as the stunt rider. With Evel Knievel sadly no longer with us and the British equivalent, Eddie Kidd, having cut his career short due to an accident in the 1990’s, there aren’t many of them left. But developers Hello Games have a plan to change this, albeit virtually, and it comes in the form of Joe Danger Special Edition on Xbox Live Arcade.
Originally released on the PlayStation Network, Joe Danger Special Edition makes its appearance on the 360 fully intact. In case there are those out there who lack access to a PlayStation 3 or just don’t know, Joe Danger is a stunt racer bike game that sees the titular character looking to reclaim his past glories as the pre-eminent stunt man of his generation. This is achieved by guiding him through a series of event levels which gradually ramp up the challenge and occasionally see him facing off against other dare devils in rival races. Each event encourages the player to pull off stunts, which in turn boost a multiplier that affects the final grade at the finish where they are awarded stars based on their performance. These unlock levels with which to progress.
Thankfully the tight, responsive controls that were a large part of the appeal of the original are replicated perfectly here, their ease of use putting the player at the very heart of the action and leaving no room for blame to be apportioned to anyone else for mistakes. It’s just as well, because the in-game challenges soon start to mount up. Here is a title that thinks nothing of expecting the player to combo an entire level, hit all required targets, gather all stars AND beat an aggregate time into the bargain. Thanks to the controls what might seem insurmountable, soon becomes second nature and meeting the requirements is a fun experience that never seems to get old.
Where this Special Edition differentiates itself from the original is in the new addition entitled The Lab. This is essentially a selection of tight, focused levels that look to wring each and every last inch of control and balance from the player, since they are fiendish in both layout and execution. There is always the more obvious path to follow which will provide success, but those who have an adventurous approach will be richly rewarded by following the less literal route. There really is appeal in following the “what if…” school of thought and finding new ways to approach levels, incorporating learned skills in the career portion and elaborating on them within these new confines. It’s a smart addition to an already impressive package.
The level editor continues this welcoming theme. With the ability to access it either to edit existing levels or create something from scratch, it embodies the ethos laid down in the likes of titles such as Little Big Planet but this somehow feels more approachable and, dare it be said, it’s actually fun. That you can then share creations with friends or indeed receive them in return is a nice feature. Even those lacking a creative spark will be able to create something fun to share with others and it’s to Hello Games credit how effortless it is to get up and running so quickly.
There’s a sense of genuine fun that permeates all through Joe Danger Special Edition, the urge to smile and laugh along with the festivities, even when a particular section is causing a large amount of grief. That one run through that utterly nails all objectives is always just round the corner, the game cheering you on to succeed. It’s a heady brew, intoxicating and welcoming all at the same time. It certainly helps that the character of Joe Danger is all perpetual enthusiasm; it soon rubs off on the player, identifying with this plucky character and rooting for him to succeed through their actions.
It’s no mean feat to take an already established title and make it feel fresh and new, but Hello Games have certainly managed to do just that with Joe Danger: Special Edition. The cheery, can-do attitude mixes effortlessly with a steely determination and confidence in the unbridled fun it has to offer.