Say what you like about us Brits, but we love an underdog. From Eddie The Eagle Edwards to Tim Henman, we cant help but root for them even when we know their ability doesnt match their dreams and it all inevitably coming crashing down worse than the fiscal plans of a Tory Chancellor. So it comes as no surprise that the exploits of Hello Games Joe Danger, and his latest title Joe Danger 2: The Movie, provokes a misty-eyed response in many gamers affections.
For those who dont know, the Joe Danger games follow the journey of a once washed-up stunt rider, who over the course of two previous games, has back flipped, wheelied and boosted his way back to the big time. Joe Danger 2: The Movie sees him restored to his former glory, back on the set of big action movies and participating in all manner of death-defying stunts that runs the full gamut of Hollywoods output.
The structure of Joe Danger 2 wont surprise anyone who has played either the original on PlayStation 3 or the Xbox Live Arcade exclusive Special Edition. The main attraction, Movie Mode, consists of six different acts, while Deleted Scenes replaces The Lab from Special Edition. Of course the robust and user-friendly creation kit is very much present and even those who arent terribly gifted in terms of creation (like this reviewer) can throw together something that is not only fun, but is worth playing. Even the offline Multiplayer is still there for couch-based antics, with up to four players supported.
The need to juggle multiple goals in a level is nothing new to the series and here the dial is cranked up a notch, thinking nothing of asking the player to land on missiles launching out of silos while avoiding laser barriers that set off alarms all the while attempting to combo the entire level AND collect letters that spell out D-A-N-G-E-R all at the same time. Or this reviewers favourite, racing against monkeys on mini-bikes and punching them off their vehicles.
The enemies Joe faces this time round are a step up in class as well. Team Nasty feature as they have in all previous games, but now theres giant flying Dinosaurs that launch fire-based balls that explode on contact, Cyclops robots with cannons for arms and even environmental calamities such as landslides and avalanches for Joe to overcome. Another change for this sequel is the variation in vehicles. In Joe Danger SE there were hints that Hello Games were looking to expand on the motorbike theme, so the introduction additional things such as mini-bikes, up to Jet Packs, is no real surprise here. The latter of these are probably the most fun to play with as they control in a wild fashion to begin with, but once used to their more vertical nature, they become a breeze and theres a lot of fun to be had in flying around.
When levels are replayed the game will bring along a player either from your friends list or close to you on the leaderboards, placing a trail in the level to compete against much like Trials Evolution, and adding an extra layer of competition to proceedings.
In Joe Danger Special Edition, The Lab sections provided the sternest test of players skills, and now Hello Games seems to have upped the ante further with Deleted Scenes. These bear a similar composition as the main Acts but are definitely a step up in terms of difficulty and dont the developers know it. By the time the player arrives at Dino Cup, the second to last set of deleted scenes, theyll have not only exhausted an entire dictionary of swear words, but will start consulting foreign ones to add to their foul-mouthed nomenclature.
And while the gradual rise in difficulty is in keeping with the rest of the series, there are one or two instances that dont feel right about these truly difficult sections. Attack of the Cones IV, the final level in Dino Cup, which takes the player on a journey from a mine cart to motorbike, to finally using a unicycle, is fun but attempting to balance while collecting stopwatches AND negotiating spike traps will feel like a level too far for some. This reviewer is more than happy to admit it might be a deficit in skill, but it feels out of step with the gradual difficulty curve on display elsewhere, which can eventually be surmounted in time through skill and repetition. Here it merely feels like difficulty for the sake of it.
As evident in previous titles, Hello Games aim squarely for the funny bone and if they didnt have an eye for a pun the jokes would fall flat. Once again in Joe Danger 2: The Movie they hit their target perfectly. Total Freefall, Kill Chill, Demolition Van Like all vie to tickle the players funny bone and are entirely in keeping with the upbeat mood prevalent in the series.
Minor niggles aside, Joe Danger 2: The Movie does what a sequel should; it builds upon the original spark of magic or merely apes incredibly well what came before to make it fresh. Hello Games has mixed the formula up, tweaking an already fun experience and made it feel fresh and different enough from the original.
Heres to the underdog!