The Vita version of the first Joe Danger went largely unnoticed at the tail end of last year, which was a shame as it was a near flawless handheld port of a game that felt right at home on PlayStation’s portable platform. So it’s great to see the sequel arrive so soon after, especially as Joe Danger 2: The Movie is a large improvement on the already charming and addictive original.
For the uninitiated, Joe Danger is a 2.5D trick-attack game series that focuses on the titular legendary stuntman performing all manner of motorbike stunts. Think Trials with cartoon stylings. In this sequel, Joe is back doing stunt work on big movies and that means he’s branching out from just motorbikes. He gets to run various themed gauntlets on snowmobiles, skis, unicycles and jetpacks on the way to stuntman dominance. There is also a nifty little movie-maker, ultra-hard mode (which is a great addition once you’ve gotten good at the main game) and ‘deleted scenes’ (extra levels basically) to fill out this already tasty dish, plus a cluster of other characters to do flips and tricks with including Sackboy, the Team Fortress 2 crew and Iota from Tearaway putting the garnish on top.
A large part of the appeal of Joe Danger as a series for me is that the wholly cheerful front – full of vibrant colours and jazzy hi-tempo music – hides a mercilessly challenging score-chaser that compels you to do just that little bit better on your next run, always hoping to achieve the hallowed near-perfect one take. Each level is a satisfying chunk of gameplay, well suited to gaming on the go. You generally have to collect stars on each level, but there are a few other parameters that pop up consistently such as time limits, triggering checkpoints, finding hidden stars, coin collection and grabbing the letters D-A-N-G-E-R. Usually you get two-to-four of these objectives per level, all those completed give you special star tokens to unlock new scenarios and movie sets to continue along the path to superstardom.
On the surface, Joe Danger 2 appears to be a time-trial/score attack race and stunt fest, but if anything, it plays much more like a platformer when you look closer. For example, you can move freely back and forth on any set to search out hidden goodies, precision jumping and ducking is needed to avoid obstacles and there are collectables round every corner. On top of that wonderful cross-breed of genres, Joe Danger 2 also mixes things up really effectively on a level-by-level basis. The simple formula of collecting stars and reaching the end is ever-present, yet the scenarios you do so in vary from escaping avalanches and rock slides to punching crooks off bikes and shutting down missile silos with your rear end. All the charm and vibrancy of the front end combined with the ‘’one more go’’ gameplay makes for an altogether joyous romp. This is not to say Joe Danger 2 isn’t without the odd small skidmark in its kecks.
There are minor frustrations you see, ones the game’s irresistible charm does well to mask, but still occasionally leave you gritting your teeth at their unfair nature. For instance, sometimes there is simply too much going on at once and you end up poleaxed by an obstacle out of nowhere, other times explosions go off right on top of a hazard, meaning you never get the chance to see it before it’s too late.
For many, the art of games like this is using memory to eventually figure out when to jump, when to flip and when to dodge out of pure instinct, but there will be those of course, who will quickly tire of trying, only wishing to do the bare minimum to progress. That’s a shame, but people have wildly differing tastes and even great games have staunch critics while there’s a guy or gal out there still clinging to the belief that Aliens: Colonial Marines is a massively understood masterpiece. Sometimes, folk’ll see a relatively minor flaw and latch onto it as an excuse not to play something.
What I’m trying to say here is that Joe Danger 2 has relatively minor flaws that should not get in the way of anybody enjoying a rather wonderful game about a stuntman getting his second shot at the big time by collecting bananas and butt-slamming nukes for the love of film.