The titular hero of Hello Games’ first title, Joe Danger, is on a comeback tour in a bid to try and revive his 70’s stunt career. In-keeping with the free love theme of that particular era, the end result is like watching Evil Knievel happily romping away with Excitebike, Trials HD and Super Mario.
The by-product of this love-in is a rather attractive game that takes the best aspects from each, topping them off with bright skies, smiling hillsides and talking moles before swaddling them all in a bright, colourful palette. There’s even an upbeat soundtrack to accompany it all, featuring an overly indulgent slice of organ music and a generous dollop of freestyling prog-rock that would put Emerson, Lake & Palmer to shame.
The player must guide Joe on his trusty bike across the stage, racking up the multipliers as he goes, in order to build up the highest score possible. This is done by chaining together stunts whilst avoiding obstacles and managing to stay on two wheels. You’ll need to perform death defying leaps off ramps, clear obstacles like buses, spikes and shark infested pools, collect stars, and generally be the fastest and most daring stunt bike racer possible. These stunts, wheelies and stoppies also allows Joe to build up the boost meter which, when triggered, helps him to leap even higher and offers more air time in which to perfect that score.
While meeting the medal requirements for the level will net you Gold Stars to unlock additional stages, the real philosophy underpinning the game is to score as much as possible, with an emphasis on self-improvement. Joe Danger’s online leaderboard seeks to ape that essential ingredient found in last years XBLA smash Trials HD, and while feedback isn’t as instant as Red Lynx’s title, there’s no denying that it perfectly captures what a game like this should be all about. It’s immensely fun to compete against those on your friends list in a bid to obliterate their times and be king of the heap. There’s nothing quite like that heart stopping moment at the end of each stage as the game tallies up your score and collates it against that of your friends, waiting to find out if it’s a cause for celebration or just another speedy restart.
The Excitebike-esque sections come in the form of occasional races against Joe’s arch rivals, Team Nasty. Here the objective is to be first past the finishing line and while tricks aren’t necessarily part of the race, performing them is still essential if you want to get enough boost together to steal the lead. These levels are few and far between but are undoubtedly a nice addition to help break up the others.
Joe Danger also features multiplayer and although that might be enough to generate some initial excitement, it may lead to disappointment when you discover it’s limited to local split screen play only. However, if you can get enough people to sit down in front of your console, multiplayer still manages to provide a lot of entertainment, essentially taking the single player tasks and putting a multiplayer spin on them.
To temper this, the game does feature a built in customisation mode for those who like to create their own tracks and share them online with friends. The editor is fun and easy enough to use if you just want to mess around and vindictively bash Joe into things, but it’s also robust enough to create some fiendishly difficult tracks.
Given that Hello Games are just a four man team, Joe Danger is a title which is extremely polished and impressive, so much so that it’s easy to overlook some of the little flaws like the drawn out process of having to switch back to the level select menu when you want to move on.
Although the basic gameplay may be the same, the more comedic and jolly stylings of the game, along with a more forgiving and weightier physics model, might even attract those who were put off by the more serious nature of Trails HD. There’s no way to overlook the fact that, for the asking price, Joe Danger offers a serious amount of entertainment.