Over the weekend, after discovering I don’t have any tape in the house and thus can’t begin wrapping Christmas gifts, I played through Jazzpunk by Necrophone Games and published by Adult Swim Games. It only took about two hours, but it was two hours that flew by way too fast, that had me smiling and chuckling to myself every few steps. It’s been on my list to play this year for some time now and I snagged a copy from Humble Indie Bundle 13, but with “game of the year” discussions popping up soon everywhere I wanted to experience it for myself unspoiled. Really glad I did.
Jazzpunk is a comedic adventure videogame that really makes me want to rewatch Airplane! or Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult. The plot is centered around a top-secret espionage agency, which, for some reason, is operating out of an abandoned, Japanese subway station in the late 1950s. You control Polyblank, a spy-for-hire, as well as a silent protagonist. The game is made up of several missions given to Polyblank by the head of the organization, and you start each initially straightforward quest by ingesting a dose of prescription medicine; interpret that as you want. Anyways, while the mission might read “infiltrate a Soviet consulate,” things quickly become bizarre and nonsensical, and that’s where Jazzpunk shines, both at its strangeness and the speed it dishes out jokes.
The main focus is on exploration and comedy over solving puzzles or combat. While each mission has a single central objective, Polyblank is free to explore the zone’s world at his own pace, and I did this for each level, saving the main path for last. As you explore, you’ll come across a number of interactive NPCs, some lined with a single gag or even a separate side quest, like degaussing three pigeons for a pie, just like how meemaw used to do it. I won’t spoil every minigame you can find, but let’s just say that the Frogger clone is the most tame of the bunch. That said, if you see a wedding cake at the Kai Tak Resort, I urge you to examine it.
Control-wise, Jazzpunk is pretty simplistic. I plugged in an Xbox 360 controller to play, and you can walk around with the analog stick, jump, and examine highlighted objects/people. Your inventory never gets too big–I think it had three or four items in it at most–and you can cycle through each item as you stroll. The game is equally as simplistic in its visuals, but I really dug the cartoony, thick outlines. There are moments where real meets digital, and those are fun, but a platforming section towards the end was a strain on the eyes due to an overload of white, white, white. Many have compared the graphic style to Thirty Flights of Loving, but I’ve not played that one yet. Oh, and though I’d never drop my Showcard Gothic font here at Grinding Down, the font used in the game is fantastic, whatever it is.
I don’t know what the name Jazzpunk means, but I do know it’s a ton of fun to play and experience firsthand. Guess it gives off the vibe of 1980s cyberpunk or bombastic spying in the vein of Roger Moore. I’m so glad I got around to it this year, as it is definitely making my top five games list, and I have a few more Achievements to pop so I’ll drop back into it sooner than later, to do things like jump into a pool incorrectly and help someone with a saliva problem. Yup. That’s what I need to do.