I have a tendency to give any comedy video game bonus points straight out of the gate, simply because the genre needs some love. As it is, comedy video games are a barren wasteland with few examples of how to do it right leading the way. Putting yourself on that path is worth some consideration for sheer bravery.
Jazzpunk is a game that needs no such special treatment. That’s because it’s a comedy video game that (get this)…is actually funny.
Perhaps the easiest label to throw on Jazzpunk’s humor is parody. In fact, there are many calling it the gaming equivalent of the movie Airplane, which I suppose is accurate.
The primary target of the game’s various spoofs are the spy films of the 50’s and 60’s. This is most obvious through the game’s basic plot which sees you complete various espionage assignments for an underground spy agency. Of course while spy and noir films are the primary target, ultimately there is no element of pop culture that isn’t fair game.
More important than any specific parody targets is the fact that Jazzpunk tackles them all with a sharp satirical wit. Sure there’s the odd blunt trauma joke here and there that swings hard and misses its mark, but the vast majority of the game’s parodies are either delivered with an expert precision that makes them appear effortless, or are cleverly hidden somewhere in the environment waiting to be found by eagle eyed players with Wikipedia like reference knowledge.
But gaming has done parody before. It’s, in fact, the go-to for any video game comedy that hopes to stir a laugh or two from the user, even if they are cheap.
What separates Jazzpunk from its peers is the game’s ability to take a hint from different sources, but never produce a carbon copy of their humor. It’s influenced by many great comedies that came before it, but never feels derivative of any of them because of the game’s unique style. The world of Jazzpunk is a little bit Monty Python, a little bit Looney Tunes, a little Rocko’s Modern life and a little In Like Flint, but at the end of the day is its own thing that owes only a nod to its predecessors, rather than the entire credit.
Unfortunately Jazzpunk’s insistence to work without a creative net means it does fall flat on its face from time to time. This is particularly true of the gameplay.
See Jazzpunk is a point and click adventure game that features all of the puzzles and clicking around randomly you’ve come to expect from the genre. Only here the challenge is almost non-existent. The game’s levels are very tightly constructed which does help the comedic delivery, but hinders the exploration aspects of the puzzles. Often times the answers you are looking for are blatantly obvious and require little actual investigation or challenge. You’ll spend more time voluntarily hunting down hidden jokes than you will necessary objectives.
Even worse are Jazzpunk’s mini-games. When you first encounter them, they’re nothing more than additional clever references, and fun time sinks. Towards the end, though, the time required on them starts to well exceed their welcome, meaning the final parts of the game take a noticeable dip in quality.
That’s an issue made worse by the game’s length. You’ll have to work hard to get more than a few hours out of Jazzpunk, which may not be entirely unusual for a $15 game in the modern age, but is worth noting.
Complaints aside, you really have no choice but to play Jazzpunk. After all, how often do we get a genuinely gut bustingly funny video game that features the kind of tightly scripted zaniness that made Monty Python a comedy revolution, while sporting little of the tired jokes that have thus far plagued the genre?
Sure Jazzpunk doesn’t last very long, and could have benefited greatly from some more involved puzzles, but it’s difficult to demonize the game for its length or gameplay deficiencies, when the experience you do get is so tightly crafted and brimming with creative love that it often feels like changing a single bit would mean deflating the creator’s dream.
Jazzpunk’s brilliance easily trumps its obvious flaws and puts it on a recommendation level no other video game comedy has achieved before: