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Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Developer: Necrophone Games
Jazzpunk. The name brings to mind the other genres that have sprung up over the years. Steampunk, Cyberpunk, hell, even Seapunk is a thing these days, when people are left to their own devices. However, the title itself is a parody of these other genres, proving the point that you can put almost anything in front of the word “punk” and suddenly it’s a big shiny new thing. When you start up Jazzpunk, you’ll easily notice that the game itself is very bright and vibrant, quick to give the player insight into what kind of game they’re about to play. Of course, a strong epilepsy warning must be given before playing the game. I myself was in the midst of starting up the game and I felt a strong migraine coming on, so if you’re not in the mood for brightly coloured, colourfully humourous, humourously witty indie games then I suppose your reading can stop here. The story itself is fairly simple. It parodies old noire spy movies in an alternate 1950s, presumably, where everyone is a cyborg and you’ve to put a stop to the villain. Whilst coming from the United States of Japan. No different from any other day then.
Another admirable feature here are the minigames. There are several different games to be found throughout the levels of the story, making references to several other games/movies in pop culture: i.e. Quake, Evil Dead and Street Fighter. These games themselves can be pretty addictive; after going 10 rounds in Wedding Qake I can safely assure that condemning the AI to holy matrimony over and over was enough to make me forget what other bizarre objective the last NPC had thrust upon me. The game itself is incredibly beautiful, with graphics ranging at first from zany and wacky, to stunning aesthetics that almost look ripped from a completely different game, contrasting with the sillier aspects of Jazzpunk.
If you’re playing Jazzpunk, you best be prepared for the random and the unknown. Almost anything goes in this game: from sexbots patrolling the streets, to swatting humans into fly people. The possibilities are endless, well, until you realise there’s a limit to the programming, of course. This at first can be rather humourous, but if you’re the type for whom random comedy grates as soon as you think, “They might as well throw random words together at this point” then this might not be the game for you, as that is most likely how they came up with the title.
At heart, the game is a first person explorer, which is its excuse to drop you into strange new environments and let the player peruse the perplexing landscape before them. There are absolutely no worries to be had when playing. The enemies do not hurt you, there are no “YOU HAVE TO COMPLETE THE MISSION IN X SECONDS” moments or even dreaded escort missions. The game is a simple exploration sandbox – it just plops you down and lets you get on with it at your own pace. Of course, the more thorough you are, the less replayability the game has, as some people could play through the story multiple times and still not find something, but at some points you have to question, “Is it really worth another 3 hours just to find X?”. Of course, if you have your priorities in order, you’ll know the answer is always yes.
Jazzpunk does keep you guessing with which objects will be interactive and which ones will not. After all, the game itself is dependent on the player to spend more time within its world. If you want to just rush through and finish that all-important plot, the game at a stretch will last you around an hour, far less if you’re one of those speedrun types. If you’re looking for exploration and all the little instances of bizarre bafflement (for example an evil witch whom you release and then proceeds to throw fruit at you (you know, like everyday life)) then you will definitely get your money’s worth with the title.
Overall, if you’re into games that you can leisurely stroll through, with a story that doesn’t take itself seriously and with barebones games mechanics, then Jazzpunk may just be for you. If you’re looking for a nice laugh with some stylish visuals, then again, this is the game for you too. However, Jazzpunk itself is a mix-up of good and bad, with it seeming almost hollow at times if you’re sticking along the railroad, looking for the next spectacle to make you go, “Ooh”, then you might be feeling a little buyer’s remorse. If you’re one of those types that surprisingly plays games to have fun, then fun I believe you shall have. Necrophone Games, you’ve done yourself a great service.