Joe Danger 2 sings a merry tune many will be instinctively familiar with, throwing players into quirky loop-de-loops of twitch controls, combo meters and irresistible jumps as players manoeuvre courses designed to make them come unstuck. It very quickly becomes a tricky game, which is something you might not suspect from its, like, oh so totally adorable aesthetic.
Despite the high-speed antics, this is a saturated world packed with detail. The happy beaming smiles plastered across everything bring me joy, and the more you look at any given scene the more you find yourself catapulted into your own personal Happy Place. Road signs look like they’re from Sesame Street, every sound effect seems to be accompanied by a rambunctious twang, and the charmingly silly billboards can even advertise grenades without feeling violent.
But, like I said, it’s tricky. Joe Danger tests you for style, tricks, exploration and combos over control. The core is a very familiar mix of reflex-straining, eye-frazzling tests of hand to eye co-ordination, albeit one where you might find yourself learning those techniques dressed up as a giant pink cupcake riding a small bicycle.
Each clump of levels has been framed around Joe filming the stunts on the set of a film, and Hello Games deals exclusively with the tried-and-tested meat of fiction - adventure, espionage, crime and dinosaurs. There’s some lovely little moments sewn in, like when Joe mocaps his own stunts, but these aesthetic framings serve to ground and orientate the player in an understandable structure.
At first the sensory overload can be a bit overwhelming. There’s a lot to do in Joe Danger, and players must successfully juggle between pulling off tricks with the shoulder buttons, positioning with the triggers, and plying the boost and jump buttons when required - on some of the trickier levels it feels like Hello Games might as well just make you have a go at spinning plates while you’re at it.
There are tutorial levels, of course, and the game does make an effort to ease you into its challenge, but when the training wheels finally come off you’re going to find yourself having a hard time if you never played the original. But perseverance is rewarded, and flying over the finish line while pirouetting in the air is exhilarating.
Hello Games rounds out their partitioned campaign with multiple vehicles, helping keep things varied between levels. Alongside the signature stuntbike Joe ping-pongs between skiis, minecarts, jetpacks, unicycles (hilarious, but a complete nightmare to control) snowmobiles and a police vehicle. In one level he’s even a paperboy.
Elsewhere there’s a return of the game’s decent level editor, a robust tool that lets you play and edit in real-time. Thankfully Hello Games has worked in some online sharing capabilities - a massive flaw in the original game - so I’ll be able to tinker with the efforts of other, more intelligent players.
This is ultimately a modern game deeply rooted in nostalgia, and you can still see the component parts of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Trials, Sonic the Hedgehog and Excitebike in Joe Danger 2: The Movie, but this time around the amalgamation is seamless, unique and completely coherent. Joe Danger 2 can be an incredibly tricky game, but it’s one that always puts a smile on my face.
Virgin Media verdict:
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