Jazzpunk (Indie video game review)
Have you ever had a moment where you see a trailer for something, be it a movie, anime, game, or anything else, and say something along the lines of, “I have no clue what I just watched, but I am so there.” That was my initial thought for the first trailer for Jazzpunk. I wasn’t sure what the game was going to be like, and even wondered if it was going to be a new attempt at a FMV (Full Motion Video) type of game similar to those familiar to Sega CD, 3DO, and Atari Jaguar fans. What was shown was a guy in an a neo-Tokyo style room attempting to get room service, before plugging a Walkman looking device into a port on his head that continuously warns about overloading capacity with certain amount of data measured in kilobytes. The guy then grabs an envelope that is titled readme.txt, with some simple steps to pack a bag with essential items like a pistol, ray gun, tape recorder, banana, high pitched whistle, lobster, and pigeon, then to enter into a virtual reality through an overly complicated headset. Once in headset is on, he enters the world of Jazzpunk.
While this was trailer for the game that only contained about twenty seconds of gameplay, tone of the short video is perfectly aligned with what the game actually is; a very bizarre adventure comedy with many references to ‘90s geek culture. The game sets you in the role of a secret agent taking on various missions in order to take down the evil communists, much in the way that the agents from classic shows like Get Smart attempted. However, the jokes and puns made are more in line with Tex Avery cartoons, and cartoons influenced by that animation style and tone.
On top of these various influences, the game finds a way to mix various 50’s futurist ideas, known to some as ‘retrofuturism,’ with references to mid-90’s technology. In between the main story, there are various comedic mini-game type missions, such as helping a frog get an internet access code by guiding him in a game of Frogger, searching a beach with a metal detector to find treasure of the 90’s, or playing a game of virtual hand ball in “true” virtual reality, which we all know is through a visor that can only display red and black colors.
I think it should go without saying, but I loved this short game. The attention to detail and the care taken to ensure that every joke hits the right point, which is really hard to do in interactive entertainment, is an impressive task and a delight to experience. Even though I want to highly recommend this game to everyone, I can also recognize its limited appeal. To really enjoy this game it would help to have an appreciation, or working knowledge of, many of the things I stated in the body of this review. I am doing my best when writing this to not give away any of the jokes, but if you enjoy the idea of 90’s tech and geek culture mixed with 50’s futurism with a touch of Tex Avery, this is a good adventure game for you. Younger generations that are unaware of these things will likely be confused, dumbfounded, and possibly bored by the whole experience. The word experience is an important one, because while there are game elements, it is an adventure game that is about the journey and exploration of the various areas. My recommendation to those that play this game, is to take your time, enjoy what you are seeing, and don’t be in a rush to finish. If you take this Zen-like approach you will find a great amount of joy in this unique and very stylistic game.