Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley Review

An idea is a powerful thing. One can inspire greatness in people, bring people together, or make someone laugh. But until an idea is ultimately executed upon, it remains just that: an idea.

Comic Jumper is an idea that, when executed, becomes something far less great than its conception. It’s a game that had to have sounded amazing in the planning room, but the finished product is just a disappointment that becomes a tedious experience.

Players control Captain Smiley, a gregarious and egotistical super hero whose opposing villains include a mad scientist who does things only he can see and a meathead body builder named Brad. Smiley’s sidekick Star, who is permanently attached to his costume, is a crass and short-tempered character who is more grounded in reality, but not any more sane. Smiley’s comic is terrible and losing sales fast. After being canceled, the nice folks at Twisted Pixel (yes, they wrote themselves into the game) recruit Smiley to jump into other comics and make guest appearances in order to gain enough money to reboot his own comic and try again.

Jumping comics 

That premise and story sounds golden. The idea of having your character jump into different comics’ genres provides vastly different art styles and game mechanics to explore. Twisted Pixel mostly executes on these, offering three very distinct comic genres to jump into, those being a Swords and Sandal epic, a 60s-era Jack Kirby comic, and a black-and-white manga. Each set of levels had a distinct artistic style and Twisted Pixel does an excellent job converting Smiley and Star, along with the villains who jump with them, into that style. It really is a visual tour de force, complemented fully by the humor.

The three comic genres provide the opportunity for plenty of parody that will have you laughing almost constantly, especially if you are familiar with comic books. Chicken-throwing enemies who greet you in the Conan parody, constant Comic Obscenity Commission (COC) fines bombaring you for every curse word in the 60s comic, and the high school of Hent High in the manga are some of the highlights. The game is funny from beginning to end, with superb writing and whip-fast jokes. I’ve never experienced a game that made me smile from ear to ear while the characters spoke, but then made that same smile fade when I was back in control.

The gameplay is a cross between Contra and Panzer Dragoon. I know that combo sounds amazing, but Comic Jumper manages to inject an unprecedented amount of tedium into that combination. You’ll run from left to right (or right to left in the manga level) shooting bad guys, occasionally switching to a behind-the-back perspective a la Panzer Dragoon where you have to shoot enemies in front of you. It starts off fun, but the main issues of levels design, uninteresting enemies, and no exciting set pieces to keep you on your toes soon rear their ugly heads. You’re constantly running in one direction, shooting enemies that take way too many bullets to kill, and wondering when something fun will happen. The game is unbalanced as well, throwing numerous enemies on the screen at once. Since they take so long to kill (too long for a game like this) you’re often stuck in a situation where you have no choice but to take damage because you can’t shoot your way out fast enough. The game isn’t designed vey well, as if the developers spent all their time making the game funny, but forgot to the put the game in.

Kirby would be proud

Adding insult to injury, the game will make fun of these segments. Like Mat Hazard before it, the developers knew this crap wasn’t fun, but instead of fixing it, just decided to add a joke hoping you would laugh and brush it off. When a game makes fun of its bad design, that doesn’t stop it from still being bad design.

It’s just sad that Comic Jumper is like this, because the game is so full of content and humor. Thegame takes about 6-7 hours to complete, and there is a treasure trove of unlockables that are actually interesting to earn. The concept art is very good and there is commentary on almost every piece of art and mock comic book, providing more insight into the creative process. It’s extremely interesting and I found myself re-entering levels to earn more cash, just so I could unlock additional art and videos and read about them.

I could recommend Comic Jumper as a hilarious piece of art, but as a game, there isn’t enough here to keep your attention to get to that next hilarious moment. It’s more tedious than fun, and that’s a real shame.

3 out of 5


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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