Comic Jumper Xbox 360 (XBLA)
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Twisted Pixel
Comic Jumper puts you in the role of Captain Smiley, a rather lousy comic character who appeared in a comic that was so unappealing it was cancelled. Even the contracted villains have gone off to other comics. Captain Smiley, who’s accompanied by an abrasive talking star symbol on his chest, is down on his luck then but in Comic Jumper he has the chance to redeem himself and make a comeback. He has to do this by making guest star appearances in other comics. He’s also not without help and can even call on assistance from the developers when things get out of control.
Comic Jumper is, for the most part, a side-scrolling action game with a large focus on shooting rather than kicking and punching. As with most side-scrolling action games, there’s some platform game aspects thrown in for good measure too. Enemies have their set patterns of attack, and several of them are tough to take down due to their generous amount of hit points, but things only usually become difficult when you’re dealing with a number of enemies. There are moments when you’ll switch to a first and third-person perspective but for the most part you’re playing from a side-on view. The general quality of the gameplay is good but at times you’re facing too many waves of enemies without anything in between to offer a welcome change of pace. This has the negative effect of making the game seem far more repetitive than it should be and as a result it makes the game more suited for short stints rather than long durations.
There are a few unusual elements to Comic Jumper. To shoot you’ll aim with the right analogue stick and press the RT button to fire. This seems a little odd at first but it doesn’t take long to get to grips with. The game is also rather old fashioned when it comes to its difficulty level. With no way to replenish your health you’ll die quite often. Thankfully, you’re simply dropped back at the last checkpoint and these do seem to be placed rather evenly. Smiley will earn cash for his roles in the various comics and with this cash you can upgrade his attributes to make him more durable and powerful. You can also take part in challenge missions to earn extra cash if you need to do so. Rather more bizarre is the involvement of the developers within the game. You can even press the Y button to use a ‘Help Me!’ which will call Twisted Pixel and have them destroy all of the enemies on screen (and you’ll see the developers do this too). Thankfully this is something you can’t do that often as you have to earn this ability in the melee sections of the game.
Given the name of the game, it should come as no surprise that the game has comic book style visuals. What makes the game appealing from a visual standpoint is how the look of the game will change to match the comic that Captain Smiley is starring in. It’s a nice touch and certainly the Conan-style, manga (the manga sequences go from right to left just like manga books) and other themes in the various comics really help to add some much needed variety to the game.
Comic Jumpers is subtitled but the quality of the subtitling is not as good as it could have been. The main cut scenes aren’t subtitled (including both the ones with the in-game graphics and the ones featuring real people. The main dialogue during the main game is subtitled, and displayed in speech balloons, but there are plenty of comments, usually from Gerda, that are not. Some of these comments aren’t essential but they are humorous and it’s a shame that deaf gamers have to miss out on them. There are also some obscenities here too, which aren’t subtitled so take care not to play the game within earshot of younger hearing gamers. You’ll see text representations of various sounds such as ‘Splat!’ and ‘Crash!’ to fully capture that comic book feel.
Played in short spurts Comic Jumper is surprisingly enjoyable. The game certainly has it good points but when played for long durations it feels highly repetitive and it’s easy for your patience to wear thin when you’re faced with waves of the same enemies over and over again. It’s also a shame that some of the game’s more humorous moments can’t be shared by deaf gamers thanks to the absence of subtitles. In fact the lacklustre attempt at subtitling the game is disappointing. Those looking for some quick-fire side-scrolling action will find something here to enjoy however and there’s no denying that the game is fun in short bursts. Whether it’s a game you’ll want to revisit once you’ve completed it however is another matter entirely.