Also available on: N/A
Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Hello Games
Joe Danger impressed last year on the PlayStation Network with its colourful and addictive side-scrolling platform action playing as a washed up stunt bike driver. Taking inspiration from daredevils such as Evel Knievel, the debut digital title from Hello Games boasted Sonic the Hedgehog-style gameplay in levels that were short and sharp, but packed with extra achievements and collectables. Joe Danger: Special Edition has now finally arrived on Xbox Live Arcade, and thankfully it's lost none of its lustre, while also picking up some new content, including a Laboratory mode of extra levels.
Players once more become Joe Danger, a slightly bloated former daredevil star mounting a comeback after an accident ruined his career. Again, the game's presentation stands out, featuring bold, cartoon-like colours and animation, always with a well-balanced sense of humour. But it is the gameplay that is the star of the show in this side-scrolling action racer that harks back to classic arcade games - instantly accessible yet also hugely addictive.
Joe must drive the tracks to win races, while also completing a range of objectives, starting off in preliminary rounds, but soon entering the main championships. Moving forward means collecting gold stars to unlock new stages and this is done in a variety of ways. Each stage has up to eight different objectives to complete, such as collecting all the letters that spell out the word DANGER. Objectives can be done in whatever order, although they pretty much stay the same. This means there is a bit of repetition in the game, but it's certainly not a showstopper.
Collecting mini-stars during the tracks gives the opportunity for a power boost. Spring jumps give greater elevation, while the left and right triggers switch Joe from side to side while in the air. Power boosts are also earned by performing stunts and tricks, such as a one-handed superman. The controls take a while to truly master, but generally feel intuitive. Some tracks have multiple levels and the player can shift channels via a train track-style points system. Other races involve taking on computer-controlled drivers from Team Nasty, which adds a new dimension as jumps, boosts and tricks must be used cleverly to gain an advantage over rivals.
Alongside the single-player game, Joe Danger features the same pretty weak multiplayer over local split-screen, dogged by lumbering and buggy performance. The LittleBigPlanet-style track editor is much better, enabling players to build their own tracks by placing objects such as ramps and obstacles while driving the course in real-time. Joe Danger: Special Edition features a relatively modest amount of additional content, such as new environments, modes, and characters. But this is offset by the Laboratory mode, an entirely new section offering 25 magnificently bizarre extra tracks.
Each Laboratory level has its own distinct visual style, some of which are an absolute treat and offer a new challenge against the main game. Also new to the XBLA game is the Special Edition badge, requiring players to complete multiple objectives in one unbroken run. This really adds that extra and demanding challenge for the more hardcore players. Unfortunately, what is not included in the Xbox version is the ability to save replays, despite this being introduced in the PSN version via a patch. For a game so focused on showboating, it's disappointing not to be able to share these moments of magnificence with the world.
Overall, the arrival of Joe Danger on Xbox is a moment to celebrate for owners of the console, who have had more than a year of jealously eying their PS3 counterparts. Thankfully, porting the game to Xbox Live Arcade has lost none of its magic. Offering a more accessible and (dare we say it) fun alternative to Trials HD, the game still musters an addictive and testing challenge for the more hardcore players. The 25 extra levels in the Laboratory and the new challenge of the Special Edition badge give even more reasons to get revved up with Joe Danger on XBLA.