You may be familiar with British developer Hello Games as they’re currently working on the upcoming PS4 juggernaut No Man’s Sky, but prior to venturing in to the massively open-world of sexy space exploration, their 2.5D “runner”-style game Joe Danger released to critical acclaim on multiple different platforms. Here we are 5 years later, and Joe Danger has ramped (bad joke, I know) his way on to the OUYA micro-console. Yes, Joe Danger released 5 years ago. Yes, it was just recently ported to the OUYA. Yes, I’m aware they’re getting these things a little too late, but at least they’re getting them.
Now that the elephant in the room has been addressed, let’s get down to brass tax. Joe Danger is pretty damn amazing. It’s easily accessible while being deceptively simple in its design, tasking you with getting ol’ Joe to the finish line without scraping his face along the pavement in the process. In typical runner fashion, you’ll be avoiding a handful of hazards along the way. Ducking under pipes or pressing A to disarm traps are commonplace, while performing stunts and earning medals within the many, many available tracks is your ultimate goal.
“I’ve played my fair share of runners, but I appreciate that it didn’t throw me to the wolves.”
While flipping your way to victory, you’ll earn coins to spend on additional costumes; some of which look ri-god-damn-diculous, while others provide handy score enhancing bonuses. Some of them are even required to partake in the occasional bonus track, which kind of sucked if I was trying to save up for the more expensive ones. Seriously, I had about 45,000 coins when I finished the last track, and Golden Joe is 150,000. By the time I could afford it, I didn’t really need the score bonuses it provided. As an added bonus, you can earn more coins by boasting about your pro medals on Twitter, but I could never get that feature to work on the OUYA. I’m pretty sure my friends are okay with that, though!
As someone totally unfamiliar with the game until recently, Hello Games did an awesome job easing me in to Joe Danger’s mechanics. I’ve played my fair share of runners, but I appreciate that it didn’t throw me to the wolves. It started easy enough, learning how to jump, duck, and do stunts, but eventually taught me how to hover effectively, boost my speed through wheelies, and changing lanes to avoid obstacles. These are all basic mechanics, sure, but it just makes the game more accessible to newcomers without giving up the fun and challenge that makes Joe Danger so appealing.
It’s a bit more in-depth than most runners, but it never felt unfair at all. It’s not brutally difficult either, but whenever I’d accidentally drag poor Joe’s flesh across the road, I learned from my mistakes. I always enjoy when a game feels like a learning experience, and Joe Danger’s pacing was damn near perfect.
Where the game doesn’t appeal to me though is in its visual presentation and its repetitive background music. Graphics are never a selling point for me, but I’ve never really been a fan of the chubby Nintendo stylings of Super Mario 3D World where everything seems to be rounded off, cartoony, and uniform. When I first saw screenshots of Joe Danger, I was immediately turned off by its visuals, but hey, that just boils down to personal preference. It’s not a knock to the art team at all, I just wasn’t a fan. As for the soundtrack, I’m pretty sure if I played the game for more than an hour at a time, everyone in my house would draw straws to see who could rip my OUYA from the wall and throw it in to oncoming traffic. It just came off as grating and generic; something I’d expect to hear in any match-three mobile game, or something involving golf or fishing. Again, this all boils down to personal preference, but neither audio nor visuals were really that impressive to me.
“…its tight gameplay is a master class, gold standard in the runner genre.”
We all play video games because they’re fun, though. At least, I hope that’s why we play them. Although Joe Danger failed in the audio/visual department, it’s still an absolute blast to play through. I actually wanted to earn the pro medals. I wanted to go back and improve my scores. I even wanted to unlock all of the damn costumes for whatever reason, and I never want to do that in a game.
I took pleasure in zooming through the different tracks, even partaking in the daily challenges, and the responsive controls made the experience all that more enjoyable. Joe Danger may not have won me over with its generic visuals and repetitively annoying soundtrack, but its tight gameplay is a master class, gold standard in the runner genre. It may have been around for 5 years already, but it’s an absolute must-have for the OUYA in 2015.
Recommended for fans of: Excitebike, or runners like Bit.Trip: Runner, I’ve Got to Run, and Canabalt.
*This review is based on the newly released OUYA version of Joe Danger, which is also available on Playstation 3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, and iOS/Android devices. Unless we find significant differences between each version, consider this our definitive review.