Originally Published: 21 December 2009
At the end of October, when the weather was warm enough that you could walk across a courtyard outside the Royal Armouries in a t-shirt and still have some feeling left in both arms, I took a trip to the Eurogamer Expo in Leeds.
Amongst the bells and whistles of the latest flashy titles like Bayonetta, New Super Mario Bros, Heavy Rain and Split Second I found a few new loves. You’ll probably have read about one of them by now, as I may have mentioned it once or twice in passing. One of my other loves comes in the form of a man, on a bike, jumping paddling pools full of sharks.
Ladies and gentlemen of the interwebs, meet Joe Danger.
While I was at the Expo I had the opportunity to get my grubby mitts on the game and have a chat with Sean Murray (from Hello Games, not the guy who plays McGee in NCIS) in the process. When you first see Joe Danger your first thoughts will immediately turn to Trials HD. While there are similarities between the two – both contain bikes, obstacle-strewn courses and, to quote from a video review of Splinter Cell that Kirsten and myself particularly enjoy, they both have a man in them. Joe Danger is a much brighter game – brought to life by bright graphics and a slightly mischievous side.
Trials runs on one plane, while Joe Danger lets you ride in and out of the screen – offering you a variety of paths through the level, each with their own rewards. When you combine this with a myriad of different challenges – including running a level as a continuous combo of stunts, no easy feat I can tell you – then you have yourself an instantly addictive game.
As I stood and chatted with Sean about the game, and one of us revealed that, were it legal, we would have married the original Rainbow Islands and had babies with it, a steady stream of people queued up to have their turn controlling the titular stunt hero.
There are a variety of challenges on offer, outside of the standard obstacle courses. Take on a target challenge and you have to best the obstacles in your path whilst landing squarely on the targets along the way. Coin challenges litter the course with, well, coins which disappear within a certain amount of time. You’ll be pleased to know that the coins make a very satisfying noise when collected. “It’s important to get the sound right,” Sean explained. “Everyone knows what a coin sounds like.” While this sounds a lot like crazy talk to anyone outside of the gaming fraternity I know you’re all sitting there now imagining a coin noise. Joe Danger’s coins totally sound like that.
Eventually it was my turn to get my game on. As I’d watched a fair few players running the levels it was decided (not by me, I hasten to add) that I could start with one of the difficult tracks. While performing admirably for someone dumped in at the deep end, Sean relented and let me start out with the easy courses which, I think it’s fair to say, I got the hang of reasonably quickly. Once I’d got the controls down, and knew my way around the world of Joe Danger I was let loose on some of the challenges.
The target challenges are fun, and a real test of how well you not only tackle the obstacles but also how you control the bike in the air to ensure a perfect landing. The coin challenges, on the other hand, are a lesson in “just one more go” gameplay. Presented with a series of coins to collect in 30 seconds I took to the course. Collecting some of the coins, I failed the challenge and had one more go. This one was better. So, with encouragement from Sean and a couple of other spectators I tried again. And again. And again. I then began to point out to Sean that there was, quite clearly, one coin too many on that level.
Surprisingly, I was allowed to play on and let loose on something that no-one else had played while I was there – the race mode. With three other Joes to race against this is pedal-to-the-metal stuff (or throttle-twisted-as-much-as-it-will-twist stuff, given that this is a bike thing). As you race you can top up your boost bar by pulling stunts – more boost increases your chance of winning. Easy.
“You’ll need to be ready on the accelerator with this one,” said Sean, handing me the pad just as the loading screen faded away. As I looked at the screen, and saw my racer eat everyone else’s dust I caught Sean just looking at me. “We’ll probably put a countdown in there, or something,” he laughed, with a mischievous glint in his eye.
It’s the same mischievous glint, I suspect, that makes Joe Danger one of the most addictive and time-consuming games I’ve played and definitely one to look for once it’s available to download. Having spent some time with Sean, chatting aimlessly about random things as well as the game itself, and joining the highs and lows of the other players during their time with the game I can safely say that this game looks to be, and deserves to be, a sure-fire hit when it’s released.
Watch this space.