Published on September 9th, 2013 | by Darik Kirschman0
Jazzpunk is hilarious, weird and brilliant
Comedy is a tough nut to crack. It takes a certain kind of person to find that natural rhythm, to be likable enough to pull off a joke without coming across as offensive or overly crude and to know when and how to improvise. If comedy is hard enough to write and perform live, then the duo at Necrophone Games must be some sort of wizards, as their game Jazzpunk pulls it off while taking into account player agency and gameplay. It is, hands-down, one of the funniest games I’ve ever had the pleasure to play; it’s also one of the weirdest and most absurd.
So what, exactly, is Jazzpunk? It’s a challenge to describe, but Jazzpunk is a first person perspective title in which the player is put into the role of a spy wandering a cyberpunk-like city in search of…something. The narrative doesn’t really mean much, according to the developers, and it seems to be in place just to allow all the disparate gaming mechanics in each mission come together in a cohesive fashion. Don’t worry — it totally works in practice, as each mission feels like a part of a greater whole, despite not quite being connected to anything else.
Upon walking around the hub city, you’ll encounter various oddball, charming NPCs, with most needing some sort of assistance. You, as a super spy with an unusually wide array of skills, gladly oblige, taking on all sorts of tasks. At one point I had to help a computer hacker frog, complete with mohawk, hack into a local wireless access point. Another character was deathly afraid of spiders (rightfully, I may add — those little bastards are awful), yet was blocking the way I needed to go. Luckily, the building I was in was chock-full of the nasty critters and I just so happened to find a big jar to put them in! Situations like these arise frequently in Jazzpunk, and players are led through the title’s insanity with laughter aplenty.
Aside from the writing and the gameplay, both of which are superb, the title features an interesting and striking art style. It’s reminiscent of ’50s and ’60s style pulp noir comics, with even more color and personality bursting through. The models are all simplistic, but it works well with the craziness of the world around them, subtly allowing you to fill in the details yourself in between fits of giggles. There’s a lot to see in the landscapes you explore, with some sight gags thrown in for good measure. Jazzpunk is nothing if not thorough in its comedy.
As you’d expect from a game focusing on the funny, there’s a lot of references to our most favorite of mediums. The aforementioned hacker frog is first introduced in a Frogger-style minigame, while searching various nooks and crannies might just pop up a meaningless in-game achievement message — perfect for those who want to be congratulated on doing silly, mundane things! I even spotted a GoldenEye 64 reference in my hands-on time, a nod that made me grin from ear to ear. While speaking with the developers, I was told they have a lot of love for each and every game they’ve poked fun at, expertly tiptoeing along the line between playful and harsh. That balance is key when parodying such influential titles.
In the end though, I can’t really properly convey what Jazzpunk is all about. All I can tell you is to go watch their teaser trailer below. It likely won’t really give you a better idea of the entire game, but it’s infinitely better than letting me ramble on and on about it. Jazzpunk is what you’d get if you took the best works of Mel Brooks, David Zucker and William Gibson, stuck them in a blender with a Nintendo 64 and then added some absinthe before serving chilled. It’s totally crazy and I love it.