GBAtemp Recommends: Jazzpunk

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There was a point, as I backtracked through Jazzpunk’s first level, where the camera lined up just right for me to see all the chaos that existed in this little space. The undercover agent standing in an alleyway, bits of pie still dripping down his chin after I smashed it in his face. The empty space where a man had stood before I accidentally summoned a swarm of pigeons to carry him off. The man whose beard I just picked crumbs out of. It had all started off so simple.

Jazzpunk opens with a very Saul Bass-inspired credit sequence straight out of a ‘50s movie, setting the tone for a retro spy romp. You'll quickly realize, however, it's closer in tone to a Zucker brothers movie. As a first-person exploration-based game, Jazzpunk encourages you to inspect every corner of its world very seriously. There's no combat, and the puzzles are all fairly simple, really only serving as a punchline themselves as you realize the solution was only hard to figure out because it worked off of bizarre, cartoon logic. Once you figure out its rhythms, Jazzpunk delights in sending you on wild goose chases. Knowing players will investigate every inch of this world--whether to find a puzzle solution or just from compulsion after the habit's been beaten in to you from so many other games--it indulges in absurdist sensibilities, playing out a variety of creative and fascinatingly strange scenarios.

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For example, at the start of the first mission, I'm told I need to infiltrate a Russian consulate to retrieve a data cartridge--the perfect setup for an early Cold War-era mission! I get turned away at the front desk, of course, and when I press the workers for answers the only remotely useable thing I get is that they go on break at noon. Looking for a way to make time pass to noon, I spotted a movie theatre, which seemed like just the thing. Inside, I found myself smoking a cigar, Cape Fear-style, watching a hypnotically bizarre ad for a kid’s toy. When I left, it seemed like nothing had changed. Oh well, at least I found a cute little Easter egg.

I found another few little diversions like that—a frog that needs help stealing wifi from a nearby coffee shop, a man who asks you to collect ingredients for his pigeon pie, a pizza box that opens like a laptop and lets you play a short pizza-themed survival game—but nothing that would get me into the Russian consulate. That’s when I spotted a shady customer wearing a trench coat, clearly some kind of fellow agent, hanging out in an alleyway. He tells me instructions are waiting for me in the mailbox marked with chalk. That contained a package intended for another shady guy on a park bench, who had further instructions. I followed the bread crumbs until I was given a secret knock to gain access to a hotel roof, where I found a guy tending to pigeons, who thanked me for my work and told me further instructions would await me in the next level. Then the words “SIDE QUEST COMPLETE” triumphantly blared across the screen. But...I thought this was going to get me into the Russian consulate?

Turns out I was just supposed to turn the hands on the clock in the lobby to noon and trick the workers into going on break. Oops.

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What makes Jazzpunk’s madcap world work so well is the attention to detail present all around it. The puzzles encourage you to explore thoroughly, but with the solutions often being as strange as everything else, nothing immediately stands out as a way forward, a side quest, or just a weird joke. Later on, I found a Xerox machine in an office and interacting with it had me sit on it to make photos of my butt. Right, what else did I expect? Just a silly throwaway gag like a million before it. But when I found a scanner that wouldn’t let me through without proper identification, I retrieved the butt picture and scanning that gained me entrance. It’s a living, breathing world with such a consistently silly tone that, somehow, scanning my Xeroxed butt tracked logically in my head. That consistency makes everything feel so much more organic, letting both the jokes and exploration flourish.

In isolation, most of the jokes shouldn’t work. They’re a bit too zany, bordering on random, and there’s perhaps an over-reliance on puns. But Jazzpunk stands as a testament to the efficacy of context and timing in comedy. Every NPC has a lot of lines (all fully-voiced), the scenery is littered with cute gags, and the puzzle solutions are often funny in their absurd simplicity. It’s hard not to get suckered in by the overwhelmingly good-natured silliness everywhere, especially when it’s coming at you from all sides at such a fast pace. By making the abnormal normal, Jazzpunk lets the focus rest on appreciating the sheer creativity and weirdness that pours out of every corner, rather than trying to break down critically whether it should all work as well as it does.




I hope you enjoyed this edition of GBAtemp Recommends. If you'd like to see more, leave your feedback in the thread below or check out our previous articles.



TAGS: [GAME=/game/jazzpunk.8114]Jazzpunk[/GAME] [GAME=/game/jazzpunk-directors-cut.52242]Jazzpunk: Director's Cut[/GAME]
 

ShroomKing

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i loved the humor in this game.
directors cut adds new content and it’s only $4 on steam right now so if you’ve played the original now is a good time to get the directors cut version
 
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