BADGP Reviews: Jazzpunk
Jazzpunk (Necrophone, Adult Swim)
Released: February 7, 2014
February 10, 2014
Review: All Jazz, No Punk
Both jazz and punk are music styles that require a certain level of appreciation and are not for everyone. Jazzpunk is a game that is not for everyone.
What is Jazzpunk?
In navigating the mess that is “gaming genres,” Jazzpunk would fit nicely into the genre of First-Person Exploration that was greatly spurred forward by 2013’s Gone Home and The Stanley Parable. It also contains elements from the adventure game genre requiring the player to take certain objects and place them where they need to go in order to progress. Progress is a funny word when discussing Jazzpunk, due to the fact that it could be easily said that the objective of the game is to ignore the objectives.
Players take the role of a super spy named Polyblank. Polyblank is a silent protagonist, but has much influence in the world around him. He is sent on several missions throughout the duration for the game in various location and environments that involve espionage to relaxing on vacation. Jazzpunk’s narrative is simple, but everything else surrounding it can be confusing. Much of Jazzpunk’s appeal lies in its attempts at humor. Many jokes are about PC gaming and one’s familiarity with inside jokes of that nature will find a lot to laugh at in Jazzpunk. There is a nice 007 Goldeneye reference, a shout out to the Warcraft RTSs, and references to many other games ranging from Portal to Fruit Ninja. Jazzpunk is quite weird, and at times I was unsure if I just was not “getting it.” Sure, it is fun to shoot pigeons and turn them into a pie, but I had to keep asking myself “Why?” There is a level of randomness to the pacing and feel of Jazzpunk that will be familiar to those who have played 30 Flights of Loving.
How Does it Play?
Each mission of Jazzpunk begins with a set of objectives. The objectives are typically extremely simple. A speed run of the game could be completed extremely quickly if one so desired, but the point of Jazzpunk is to explore and find all of the silly little jokes and secrets hidden in each area. Most of the secrets that can be found are minigames. For example, one may walk up to a computer console and be dropped in a first-person, zombie/pizza, hack-and-slash game. I will not detail many of the minigames here due to the process of discovery being the main draw of the game. The less one knows about Jazzpunk before starting it, the better the overall experience is likely to be. That being said, the minigames themselves are fleeting and lacking in much substance. Typically it will include a joke, like punching a car a la Street Fighter. Not all minigames are from the first person perspective, but most are short enough not get annoying.
How Does it Look & Sound?
The word that keeps floating around to describe Jazzpunk is “surreal,” and that likely is the best word to describe the look and feel of Jazzpunk. Also, in order to better understand the visual style one may want to look up the work of Saul Bass who worked on numerous movie openings like Psycho, Anatomy of a Murder, and Vertigo. There is some clear inspiration from his work on display within the game. The character designs are incredibly simple, the environments are surprisingly full with things to fiddle around with and inspect. Several sections of the game look “trippy” and psychedelic.
All of the voice acting is largely distorted to add another layer of weirdness to an already strange experience. The music and sound effects are delightful and give off a good spy theme aura.
A comedy must be judged by how funny it is and Jazzpunk is very hit and miss. Surely, there are those who will be laughing consistently through the two and a half to three hour experience, but many more will likely not. Upon watching another person play through the game and viewing things that I missed really highlighted the amount of things to be discovered within the game. Jazzpunk is a game of discovery, exploration, and attempts at comedy, but overall it is fairly unremarkable. It is probably best suited to those who enjoyed the spontaneity of 30 Flights of Loving and only a few others.
5.5 out of 10