I’ve deleted this sentence several times now, and I’ll be surprised if this one makes it in. it’s near impossible to describe Jazzpunk to someone without losing something in translation. I’ve tried for several days now to pin down exactly what makes it such an oddity, but aside from a few scribbled notes and a doodle of a geisha-fly hybrid, I’ve got nothing.
Let’s start with what we know to be factually true. Jazzpunk is a story-driven adventure set in the first person perspective. You play the part of a secret agent called Polyblank, tasked with completing assignments given to you by a strange man in a repurposed train car. Your missions will have you travelling across the world to appease your handler, stealing objects of interest and throwing spiders at people as you go.
From this point on, things are going to get a little bizarre.
My first steps into the world, and I find myself greeted with a long tunnel full of clutter. A rudimentary search of my surroundings provides the first clue that this game isn’t your average adventure, as performing my mandatory “let’s click action on everything until I activate a secret” spree sparks a conversation between me and, well… a cardboard box. As the sentient box gargles and groans aloud in an incoherent ramble, its words become projected across its surface. Not only is this piece of litter alive, it’s begging me to leave it alone because it’s “just a box”. Prodding, staring intently, and eventually climbing on top of the box failed to persuade it to say anything else so I pressed on to the first level, slightly bewildered from my encounter with a cardboard entity.
I find myself continuously drawing comparisons between Jazzpunk and the old point & click adventure games like Monkey Island. There’s a certain charm factor that exudes from every piece of dialogue, every obscure scenario that plays out, and every sexual liaison with the roaming robot prostitutes in the streets. Each interaction is set up like a witty one liner, and for the most part they land on target, leaving you either grinning from ear to ear or scratching your head in a daze of bemusement.
Jazzpunk is set up in a way that encourages exploration over progression, and by not fully searching the outer reaches of each zone you’ll be missing out on the essence of the game. Take the first mission, in which you’re plopped right in front of a Soviet office that holds your goal. You could just stroll right in and get down to business, but a closer inspection of the surrounding buildings will yield a whole host of side activities to draw focus from the main plot.
Whilst searching through the game’s different levels, you’re likely to stumble across one of the many mini-games scattered around. Whether it’s beating up a car with your fists, slaying pizza zombies, or racing across a busy street as a frog, you’re likely to crack a smile as you play out these fun homages to old school classics. Perhaps the best of these, Wedding Qake is a like-for-like copy of the old Quake FPS arena shooter. You’ll swap heavy firepower and monsters for matrimony and cake shaped mini-guns in this satisfying distraction that I may have spent more time in than I should have.
Numerous hidden paths and secrets go a long way towards breaking apart the different sections of the game. and whilst the constant quick-fire of gags starts off great, the constant barrage of jokes tallying up against you at later levels can leave you somewhat exhausted by the torrent of humour. While it’s disappointing to see Jazzpunk diminish in the later sections, it’s to be expected from something that relies on comedy to be the focal point of the gameplay.
Jazzpunk is a breath of fresh air for adventure games, and by flaunting its own flamboyant take of a number of well known gaming tropes it pulls off an excellent parody of this culture that is both unique and entertaining. While the game does start to wind down in its final moments, there’s no reason why fans of the absurd shouldn’t jump right in and face the brain melting weirdness just waiting to be discovered.
This game was reviewed using the PC version.
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