Well made videogames are largely structured methodically with a sense of logic by very technically sound and dedicated professionals who tinker obsessively over computer screens in order to perfect the mechanics of their developing games. Jazzpunk takes any sense of internal logic that suits this description of most good videogames, throws it out the window and still remains consistently enjoyable thanks to its nonsensical features. Jazzpunk is the bad guy in a play that poisons coherence’s ear and marries his wife, it proudly embraces following non-sequiturs with more non-sequiturs taking the player on a unique journey with a colourful visual style reminiscent of a bygone era of Cold War politics, espionage, fifties/sixties animation but winds around the carousel of the surreal. It’s a stylistic mishmash of exaggerated set pieces inspired by pop culture all abruptly smashed together in the form of simplistic mini games and interactions that are bizarre and at the same time comedic. Although it may be brief, the sheer amount of high-quality content and attention to detail on display makes the game a fulfilling experience and deserving the price tag it currently has.
The game is set in visually colourful, Cold War-esque universe. After a stylish, animated intro, the player finds themselves outside a train carriage at Darlington station which is somehow the homebase of whatever organisation the protagonist, Polyblank, works for. The offbeat conventions of this game are apparent from the beginning when the player interacts with the scene, notice minor things with great attention to detail and follow the prompts instructed by the head of the organisation who sends you on your mission, provides information and drugs and makes you sit on a whoopie cushion shortly before he passes out under his desk. These intro scenes provide some sort of grounding for the world of the game, and what the overall goal of the designated missions are but when you start these missions, they are sidetracked abruptly by what else is in the level to interact with.
Visually, the game maintains a striking colourful style that mirrors the period that Jazzpunk is set in but it would go out of its way to adapt to whatever gags or spoofs the game plays on. While short pieces of music will loop constantly like a record skipping adding to the offbeat vibe of this whole game even if hearing the same loop over and over again can be repetitive. The distorted and altered voices of characters as well seem to add to the punchlines in some way, and performed as if the voice actors totally embraced the madcap nature of the game.
Jazzpunk boasts an unprecedented amount of slapstick, unexpected situations that are hard to describe but have a comedic context that can only be done justice if a person plays it for themselves. When a player finds themselves in one of the open levels in the game, there’s a ludicrous array of absurd minigames and bizarre interactions that are completely unexpected. They are random and at times trippy, you may find a device that will open portals to similar dimensions or end up inside a VR reality where you fight pizza zombies. There are also gags and one-liners uttered from nonsensical background characters that parody themselves and add colour to the whole upturned affair. Everywhere you look is a hidden gem or line that can make you laugh, and the sheer amount of them means that some can be easily missed in one playthrough.
It’s these jokes that are what define the enjoyment from the game, and the overall goal or mission objectives themselves lack any challenge or difficulty while also feels in line with the overall atmosphere of bold silliness that exists throughout the game. It’s also this openess of gameplay that makes following a linear mission hard to follow as the player is constantly bombarded with distractions as well as side missions or mini games which pay homage to games like Frogger or pop culture influences like Blade Runner or the wrestler, Macho Man Randy Savage. There’s a non-linearity to this but in a sense feels like it belongs in this one twisted game. It creates this farcical layer of depth to the game that makes the madcap tone of Jazzpunk more prevalent that constantly shifts from one form to another. Players are obstructed from digging deep into its world, because the game has an identity that’s hard to grasp. It’s for starters, an alternative history with plenty of muddled espionage, the player can be sent into a computer simulation that the player has to break out of in a trippy medium of weirdness. You also end up climbing inside a person (who happens to be a crocodile somehow), there are VR worlds too as well as video game worlds inside the levels like pizza-zombie mode or Wedding Day deathmatch.
Jazzpunk’s quirks and bizarre nature ultimately gives the game its own distinctive feel unlike any other game. It’s a WarioWare-style game in way that also explores the manic depths of its creators with a colourful story and world with an artiface that encourages the player to attempt to reveal even more madness beyond the madness on display. While it is short, being only a few hours, it definitely is a memorable one, thanks to its uniquely humourous approach.