February 7, 2014 7:40 AM | Anthony Swinnich
Comedy games are incredibly difficult to pull off. There are a few standouts -- Conker's Bad Fur Day, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and Day of the Tentacle come to mind -- but by and large its a woefully underexplored avenue of expression in the industry. It's partly due to the fact that writing comedy is hard, and partly due to challenge of timing the delivery of jokes in an interactive medium. That said, there hasn't been a game that has made me laugh out loud more often than Necrophone Games' Jazzpunk. It's wondrously quirky, devilishly stylish and genuinely hilarious.
Jazzpunk is set in a fantastical Cold War-era cyber spy world that's serious about how unseriously it takes itself. It's reminiscent of classic cartoons depicting the future, minus the inherent misogyny of the time period. Crudely built yet oddly intelligent robots roam the streets along side regular people. Flying cars are a normal sight. Mysterious, trenchcoated operatives are everywhere. It truly is the 1950s vision of the future brought to life. As a superspy employed by a mysterious corporation, your job is to infiltrate the Russian Consulate (where else, really?) and steal technology for your employer. The adventure that follows is surreal, zany and entirely unforgettable.
Missions can be completed in a matter of minutes if you go straight from point A to point B, but those who do that would be missing the point. Each level is absolutely packed with interactive items, chatty characters and creative sidequests. The amount of content strewn throughout each chapter, hidden or obvious, is pretty remarkable. Necrophone clearly spent a lot of time making sure curious players would get the most out of their game. One sidequest may have you shooting down pigeons with a special raygun. Another is activated when the player opens a discarded pizza box, revealing a computerized simulation where you have to escape a delicious-yet-deadly horrorland. These minigames are plentiful and the scenarios they put you in are as outlandish as they are entertaining.
A few of the levels are a bit more sprawling than the rest, which allows for a ton of exploration. At first, this is exciting. Unfortunately wandering can get slightly tiresome when the amount of jokes left starts to get thin. It's not a huge problem, but it's worth noting. Another is the game's length. I spent my time searching every level meticulously for things to do, but even then the game clocked in between two and two-and-a-half hours. While the immediate story wraps up, it felt like just as things were getting started they ended. It was kind of like getting hit in the face with a pie. It was wildly hilarious and ultimately delicious, but the sudden blow was jarring.
That I was left wanting more speaks to the quality of the game more than anything, though. Jazzpunk is unabashedly hilarious and a true landmark in the comedy genre. It's up on Steam now for $15, and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.