Joe Danger

Students are usually described as being lazy and, while this stereotype generally annoys me, it’s definitely true at the end of the third term. Exams are finished and I am free to do, and more importantly play, whatever I like; I could continue with _Final Fantasy 13_ or start one of the numerous games that I haven’t had time to throw into my PS3 but I simply can’t be bothered. Trudging through cutscene after cutscene or having to figure out new gameplay mechanics requires way too much effort from my poor, exhausted and generally mushed brain to handle. So instead I sit at my laptop surfing the endless abyss that is the internet, pointlessly throwing away all of my free time.

Thankfully _Joe Danger_, a PSN downloadable game that had showed considerable promise at last year’s Eurogamer Expo, was released shortly after the last of Warwick Uni’s delightful exams and is a fantastic start to what I am sure will be a fantastic summer of indie games. And indie it is, the developer Hello Games comprises of only four individuals, each of them fulfilling one part of _Joe Danger’s_ development; there’s an artist, a gameplay dude, a technical chap and that’s about it. Even with this tiny team, Hello Games have crafted an excellent game that is a joy to play and, more importantly, extremely easy to get into.

Joe Danger is daredevil, one that rides his little bike up massive loop-to-loops and over pools infested with man-eating sharks. The gameplay is similar to that found in _Trials_, where the left analogue stick controls how much Joe leans forward or backward and the triggers accelerate or brake. It lacks the pure frustration that plagued _Trials_ after the first few levels, where the required amount of precision timing and control was way above the abilities of most. While _Joe Danger’s_ levels are considerably easier to finish, they become challenging by the inclusion of a number of additional mechanics. By doing tricks, such as backflips and handstands (that are implemented through use of the L1 and R1 buttons), Joe accumulates combos and points that go toward an overall score at the end of the level. In addition, a number of levels have an award for combo-ing the entire course which, as you progress through the game, gets consistently harder to accomplish. Other levels require you to collect hundreds of stars along the length of the track while others require you to speed through the course collecting coins that only appear for a limited amount of time. The list of possible challenges goes on and on and, while none are essential to progress through the game, it makes _Joe Danger_ a truly addictive experience; I simply couldn’t continue to the next level until I’d finished all the challenges on the current one, some requiring hundreds of attempts which at no point became frustrating.

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It’s a testament to how well _Joe Danger_ is made that even when repeating a level over and over again to complete that final challenge, it never becomes boring or repetitive; every moment playing is as fun as the first time you started it up. It’s also extremely impressive that a game based around a relatively simple premise has so much variation and content, leading to hours of entertaining gameplay. Not only does the game comprise of over 60 unique levels, it also follows in _LittleBigPlanet’s_ footsteps and includes a level editor in addition to “Play, Create, Share” support. This allows you to create levels and share them online with other users, adding even more replayability to this surprisingly low-priced Playstation Network title.

Graphically, _Joe Danger’s_ sole artist has done a fantastic job balancing a crisp presentation with a heavily stylised, cartoon inspired art style. Vivid colours and stunning modelling compliment _Joe Danger’s_ gameplay perfectly. The sound design also fits the game well with an unobtrusive soundtrack, although the “JOE DANGER!” announcement at the start of every single level can get a little tiresome. The only negative I can think of with regard to _Joe Danger’s_ presentation is that while demoing the game at the Eurogamer Expo a sample of Europe’s “[Danger on the Track](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0u-g9VmUYkQ)” was used to great effect throughout each track. Sadly this seems to have been removed probably due to licensing and, no doubt, the generally greedy nature of the music industry. This is of course completely trivial but since I seem to have developed an underlying attachment to that song, I was upset at its disappearance nonetheless.

I originally began playing _Joe Danger_ because I couldn’t be bothered to play a full retail game, thinking that the light entertainment that it offered would ease me back into the more hardcore realm of first person shooters and action-adventure titles. What I didn’t account for was how addictive and thoroughly enjoyable playing _Joe Danger_ would be; after a couple of weeks now I still haven’t played _Final Fantasy 13_ or _Alan Wake_, not because I can’t be bothered but because I would rather spend my time playing this adorable and satisfyingly entertaining, stunt-bike, trick-filled experience that is _Joe Danger_. This game is pure, unadulterated fun and comes with the highest of recommendations, buy it and download it now.

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