Twisted Pixel, the geniuses behind XBLA favorite, 'Splosion Man, have returned with another off-the-wall title. This time, instead of 'Sploding your way through a labratory, you'll be blasting fools away as you travel through four different comic books.
Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain smiley is really a hodgepodge of several different titles. The game takes the gameplay of Duke Nukem, the graphics of 'Splosion Man and the wise-ass nature of Matt Hazard and puts it into one title starring a superhero with an emoticon for his head.
Captain Smiley is definitely not your typical hero. He's clumsy and jealous, but the real kicker is that the star on his chest is actually attached to him biologically. Not only is this star (aptly named 'Star') a separate character altogher, but he constantly gives Captain Smiley a tough time, which leads to some very entertaining banter.
The story is definitely one of the most original concepts in the history of the Xbox Live Arcade. You star as the previously introduced Captain Smiley, one of the biggest stars in comic books. Unfortunately, as you'll see for yourself in the first mission, Captain Smiley's comic has been terrible lately. A very funny live-action cutscene after the first mission shows the comic being buried at a playground, given away for free at comic shops and even used as toilet paper (ok, thankfully you don't actually see this, but it's definitely implied).
The sales of the comic have turned down so sharply, that the team is actually broke and getting canned. Turns out that the only thing Captain Smiley can do to make some money and attempt to save his comic series is to actually make cameos in more successful comics. That's exactly what you'll be doing throughout the entire game. You'll go from comic book to comic book, completing missions to help the characters in each universe.
The graphics are very nicely done. You can certainly see the 'Splosion Man-esque graphical style throughout the game. As you travel through the four comics, the art direction changes. This is a great touch and as you go, you'll see everything from modern comic-style to cel-shaded to black and white. The character models are very embellished, as they are in comics. Basically, if you are into comics, you will love the graphical direction of Comic Jumper.
The melee gameplay of Comic Jumper, however, is hit-or-miss. The beat 'em up aspect of the game can be a little frustrating. While the game does do a good job of giving the player a few different ways to interact with up-close adversaries, the combat can feel a bit clunky. This is very much remedied as you get futher into the game and get to use various weapons in melee combat.
We much prefer the gun combat, which can actually become really rather difficult. The main difficulty-increasers are certainly the enemies, who can take a lot of punishment. They also have a knack for over staying their welcome at times, with enemies coming out just as you thought you made it through that particular wave. You'll definitely find yourself in your fair share of Contra-esque firestorms. Luckily, the game does a generous job of giving the player checkpoints, which you'll definitely need since you don't regenerate health unless you die.
The controls during gun sections are pretty intuitive and fast-paced. You use your left stick to run through the levels and your right stick to aim. To make matters easier, you use the right trigger to fire and the left trigger to jump. It all works out very well, but if you prefer to do it another way, you can also use the face buttons for a more old-school feel.
Throughout the title, you'll find various Easter-Eggs for other Twisted Pixel titles. The best tip of the hat has to come in the form of actually having 'Splosion Man and The Maw arcade machines in Captain Smiley's lair. Of course, to play them, you actually have to own the games through the Xbox Live Marketplace, but it's neat to see them in there. Captain Smiley and Star even make reference to the criticism that many people had concerning Twisted Pixels' DLC releases for The Maw, which is incredibly humorous and does a great job of addressing the critics.
Overall, Comic Jumper is a game that takes a level or two to feel better than average, but once you get going, the story and above average gameplay will grip you unmercifully. The banter between Smiley, Star and the other characters are as entertaining as we've ever seen in any title, and the story is always entertaining to the point that you'll find yourself laughing out loud on occasion. At $15, you'll get more innovation and fun than you will in most $60 retail titles. Sure, the game has a few flaws, but they are very easily overlooked when the overall product is this well-made.