I’d played the demo of Joe Danger Special Edition when it came out last December, and I enjoyed it. But being the frugal type, and not being particularly desperate for a new game to play, I decided to wait until it was on offer to purchase it. That time came a few weeks ago when it was reduced to half price (600 Microsoft Points) as a deal of the week, and I duly snapped it up. The original Joe Danger was only on the PlayStation Network, but the Special Edition has extra content just for Xbox, although the cynic in me says that that is mainly to get around exclusivity agreements. Still more is good, and the game does offer a lot of content.
The eponymous Joe is a motorcycle stunt man, and on each level you need to progress from the beginning to the end while doing various things in order to gain stars, which you can then use to unlock new levels. Along the way you’ll encounter many different obstacles you need to jump over and avoid, such as spikes or pools filled with sharks. The controls are simple, you use the right and left triggers to accelerate and brake/reverse respectively, X to jump and A to activate a speed boost. Defying the laws of physics, when you are in mid-air you can still move left and right using the triggers, and, used along with the boost feature, this lets you access the most out of the way parts of the levels. As you’re in the air you can also perform several different tricks to increase your score, and refill your boost meter, these are performed by tapping the left and right bumpers in different sequences, and you can string combos together by doing wheelies while you’re on the ground.
On each level the various things you need to do to gain stars include collecting a set of smaller blue stars, collecting all the coins in a level (which has to be done in a tight time limit that begins when you pick up the first one), and landing on all the targets in a level. All of these items are usually quite hard to miss, but getting them all can still be challenging, requiring perfectly timed jumps and some precise steering to avoid all the traps successfully. Some levels also have additional hidden stars, which you simply have to find and pick up, and have bonus stars for doing one of the other tasks within a time limit or while maintaining a trick combo throughout the whole level, which is easier said than done on the later levels. A few of the levels are different as they are a straight race against one of more AI racers to get to the end first, which are a nice change of pace, although I did find them a lot easier than the other levels.
Some levels have a further reward, an SE medal (clearly added for this version of the game), for collecting all the different stars in one run. As this usually involves the need to complete the level within a time limit, while maintaining a combo throughout, and without missing a star or a target, they are very challenging, requiring a near-perfect run through a level. The medals aren’t required to complete the game (although you will need to get a few if you want all the achievements), but I found myself compelled to collect them all. It takes a lot of retries (the last one took me over 100), and some trial and error, but there is a great euphoric feeling when everything finally comes together and you nail a perfect run.
All in all, it’s a very good game, the controls are very responsive, the levels are well designed and above all it’s a lot of fun. There’s also an extremely capable level editor which I haven’t mentioned, as it’s not really my thing, but it’s there if you want it. There’s a lot to do in the game if you try to 100% it, and it will keep you busy for quite a while if you choose to do so, although if you don’t bother to collect every star I think you could potentially finish most of the game quite quickly. But to rush through would be to do the game a disservice, as it deserves your full attention and will reward you for giving it.