This material isn’t so fresh
There are no words in the English language adequate enough to describe just how bizarre Jazzpunk is. Sure, we could tell you that it is madcap or off-the-wall, but they don’t really cut it. No, its eccentricities must be experienced to be believed. Throughout its short 2-4 hour runtime it will entrance, entertain, confuse, and possibly, disappoint you.
You play as Polyblank, an undercover robot spy working under the guidance of The Director (Think M from James Bond, but more robotic – and possibly too fond of alcoholic beverages). You are tasked with going undercover in various locations to do the things that spies do.
Over the course of the game you will visit a number of different locales including the Russian embassy, a Buddhist temple, and a seaside resort. Each location features a main objective as well as various interlinked, but non-sensical side quests. For example, the first mission has you break into a Russian embassy to retrieve a cassette tape, however, exploring the area will reveal other quests such as helping a frog crack the Starbux WiFi password. Other side quests include degaussing robotic pigeons to help a fellow agent make pigeon pie, and returning video cassettes to the store.
Imagine if The Naked Gun series, Monty Python, and Hot Shots had a gangbang. Jazzpunk would be the resultant bastard child that plopped out 9 months later.
Jazzpunk‘s references (of which there are hundreds) aren’t limited to film or TV either. There are send-up’s of some of gaming’s hottest IP’s. Street Fighter, Space Invaders, Fruit Ninja, Quake and others receive the parody treatment in hidden mini games, scattered throughout every level.
So in terms of originality, what has Jazzpunk got going for it? As it turns out, not a lot. Stripping away all of the 60s’ spy film references, the 80s’ comedy references, and the nods to various games leaves a linear shell of a game. Typically, you will wander around collecting a set number of items to complete an objective. Other times you will complete a sequence of random events to progress. Puzzles in the game are obtuse and may require some lateral thinking, such as removing a picture from the wall to bypass an iris scanner.There is no place for your logic here!
The problem with Jazzpunk lies in its absolute reliance on other people’s material. Sure, at times it may be funny, but it often falls completely flat. Younger players who haven’t experienced a Monty Python or Naked Gun movie will be completely lost amid a sea of references that goes over the top of their heads. And even if you do understand the references, they come so thick and fast that by the game’s closing act there is a good chance the novelty of its humour will have worn off.
That’s not to say Jazzpunk is a bad game, it isn’t. It merely insists on propping itself up with things we have seen before. On occasion, the game truly shines. Dialogue from all of the NPCs is zany, funny, and most importantly it is original – something we would have liked to see more of.
Despite the various shortcomings we have noted, we cannot fault the game’s visual presentation. Necrophone Games has crafted a low poly-count world that is gorgeous in its simplicity. Jazzpunk is vibrant, attractive and fun to explore.
Further praise should also be directed at the game’s soundtrack; a mix of 60s’ spy movie music is accompanied by a raft of wacky sound effects, enhancing its off the wall tone.
During our time with Jazzpunk we encountered a number of bugs that prevented us from proceeding through the game. On a few occasions we became stuck on scenery, with no option but to restart the level entirely – you don’t have the ability to save mid-level. Additionally, items we needed to collect refused to spawn, forcing us to restart yet again. For such a short game we would have expected these issues to be sorted before launch, but a glance at the Steam forums confirms they still exist.
It’s difficult to not feel a little underwhelmed with Jazzpunk. After all its time in development Necrophone Games has somehow managed to deliver a game that is as much other people’s as it is their own. Don’t get us wrong, this is a fun game, but we can’t help feeling like we have seen it all before. Boiling the game down to its constituent parts reveals very little originality, a handful of side quests and minigames, and a very linear path to its finale. The short length of the game is, perhaps, its saving grace; sitting through 8 hours of “There’s that joke from that film that came out in 1980” is not a task we would want to partake in.
So, should you buy Jazzpunk? If you have a high tolerance for repetitive humour, and don’t mind the odd bug here and there, you will find a lot to like – so long as you understand where the references come from. On the other hand, if you don’t understand the humour, you will find Jazzpunk to be a vapid experience with little to keep you engaged.