Wow...it sure is dusty in here. Sorry for the drought everyone. We've been...busy. Yeah. Busy. Not doing any espionage missions in a alternate Cold War reality where we have to use a degauss pigeons, run into allegories of popular culture, take special medications for all of my missions, and everyone are cyborg robots that look like the people on bathroom signs. Nope. Not us. Though that sounds vaguely familiar.
Oh, that's the incredibly wonderfully bizarre world of Jazzpunk, the new game from indie developer Necrophone Games. Set in this extremely bright alternate world where Cold War espionage and cyber crime meet, you play as an agent for hire and perform various missions while under the influence of your required Missionoyl, which may or may not be a reality enhancing pharmaceutical that is making this as weird as it is. As an actual game, it's really a first person, semi-open world adventure game with a really bizarre and tinge to the darker side sense of humor i.e. my kind. That kind of sense of humor where when things happen, you laugh because it's completely unexpected, or exactly the thing you wish it would be but "no way would they do that", and you accept the reality that is presented and continue on. You accept that you first meet your character on the baggage carousel of an airport. That sentence was worded very specifically. Not at the carousel. On. You accept that your boss goes to his "wine cellar", which is really him doing the pantomiming walking down stairs trick while getting in a drunken stupor under his desk. You accept running into a pie smoking and wearing a beret. Again, specifically worded and grammatically formatted sentence. You accept that whenever you need to use the mouse for something outside of looking, your character suddenly appropriates a hand that would fit in a close up shot of Ren and Stimpy. In fact, Ren and Stimpy is a remarkably good example of the style of humor found in Jazzpunk. The original Ren and Stimpy episodes, not the Ren and Stimpy Adult Party stuff that we all collectively should but cannot forget.
As we all know, humor is very difficult in games. There are far too many examples of games falling so far flat on their faces trying to be funny that their noses came out the back of their heads, which ironically would be rather funny. Jazzpunk succeeds in it's humor by being very simple with it. Jazzpunk also goes in the direction that the humor is not as much dialog, which would be difficult seeing the entire VO is done through voice modulators appropriate for 60s era Cold War spy robots though there are floating subtitles for all the characters, but on visual gags almost to the point of slapstick comedy. With that, on top of the Ren and Stimpy allegory, I'd also throw in bits of Airplane, The Naked Gun movies, and other absurdist parodies like them for good measure. Even some core gameplay mechanics help in this endeavor, like pretty much the only way to interact one object with another is by throwing the item at it, which makes me laugh every time. Especially when it's a request as simple as "Please remove your shoes". It also helps that in many cases, the most humorous parts don't to come to you, you go to them. The side missions and little extra bits in the main missions that do absolutely nothing to move the plot along were just as absurd in every fantastic way possible and when you find them, if you're like me, you start going down this insane little rabbit hole wanting to interact with everything as much as you can just to see what it'll do.
Visually, the game seems to be very inspired by the works of Saul Bass, especially the opening cutscene. Bright colors abound with a stylized cut out motif, the game is beyond cel-shaded. It's a love letter to the pop culture, animation and art of the 1950s and 1960s and I adore it. It's vibrant and actually very beautiful, the exact opposite of many shades of brown and gunmetal grey: the game that happens most everywhere else. Also, with this psychotropic nature of your missions and what they can entail, it fits. My only issue was that, after some extended play time, it started messing with my head out of game, where I started feeling those cold sweats and headaches of maybe I should put the game down for a while. Either that or the Missionoyl was actually coming through the keyboard and into my own system. That would explain so many things. As for the music, it's more on the jazz and less on the punk in the title. Fitting in with that spy aesthetic, the music seemed to perfectly contrast that create the feeling that what was happening was entirely serious, even though it very obviously wasn't.
I don't score games because I find it naturally unfair. I like or dislike games for different reasons and no matter how hard people try, not all games are created equal. However, I can make recommendations. For those of you that want something completely different from most anything else out there in all the right ways and something legitimately funny with just a slight dark sense of humor, go as quickly as possible to your computer gaming device that is of a PC, Mac, or Linux base and either buy this on Steam or from Necrophone Games directly. It will be absolutely worth it. Now, if you excuse me, another bottle of Placebex has appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Hopefully I won't gallop away like a horse like last time.