Jazzpunk: Director’s Cut is the Playstation 4 release of Necrophone Games’ wacky first person adventure. Words cannot completely convey just how absurd Jazzpunk is, but I’ll do my best to get you there. Jazzpunk plays in a first person perspective, but has so much variety in gameplay that it’s hard to nail down its genre. It’s definitely intended to be played casually and not to be taken seriously. Is it worth your hard earned cash, though? Hopefully my review can help you decide. As with all my reviews, I’ll break down the game into several parts. Story is up first.
Every aspect of Jazzpunk is off-the-wall insane, and that extends to the narrative arc of the game as well. You play as Polytron, a secret agent whom works for a questionable organization. You’re thrust into the game quickly, and there’s never really any time dedicated to backstory or world building. To the game’s credit though, this maintains a break neck speed of jokes and gameplay variation that it’s forgiven. You arrive at your handler’s headquarters, based out of a subway car. After briefing you on your first mission, he instructs you to take a mysterious bottle of pills. After hitting the “use” button, the game starts in earnest and it doesn’t stop for two hours. There’s barely a narrative string between missions, but we do see some interesting locations. There’s a variety of locales such as a resort, back alley Chinatown, and more. What’s hidden within these levels, however, are the best part of Jazzpunk. Littered throughout the game are secrets, usually giving you a great pop culture gag in playable form. These great moments all form together to solidify Jazzpunk’s decidedly blatant style. This world building through gameplay was enough to satisfy my narrative wants.
Everything flows very well in this game. Although the style is abrasive on the eyes at times, it’s not to the fault of the game’s technical ability. The art style is well founded too, so there’s an odd consistency among the chaos. The colorful, psychedelic visuals are complimented by expertly timed visual filters and gags. Jazzpunk revels in the modification of your perspective, constantly swapping color palette and artistic tone. Without spoiling some of the better secrets, there’s some great overall visual filters (the old VHS tape being my favorite). So the game look’s great and stays interesting visually, but it unfortunately falters a bit in presentation.
There’s a few gripes I have with Jazzpunk, although they are minor. Firstly, there’s no subtitle option. There’s a toggle to enable V-Sync, but there’s an absence of a simple subtitle toggle. There is a style reason for this, since small three letter subtitles pop up in front of NPC’s when they are talking. However, these basic in-game subtitles do not provide you with key information revealed during small dialogue sections. For gamers who are hearing-impaired, this might prevent progression and cause frustration. Furthermore, the objectives are purposefully vague. There’s a lack of a mini-map, objective markers, etc. This works in some instances, as it forces the player to explore every nook and cranny of a level, often times revealing some of the aforementioned secrets. Other times, it causes frustration. Beyond that, the menus are stylish but bare, and don’t offer too much in the way of customization. On the audio front, the game sounds good. The dialogue is hard to understand at points, but that’s the only problem. Everything sounds crisp, the music and sound plays well into the comedy of the game, and wraps up the overall feel of the game with a nice pretty musical bow.
Here’s where Jazzpunk truly shines. I hesitate to tell you too much, as the constant variety of gameplay scenarios are the best surprise of the game. To give you an idea though, I’ll give you a taste of what’s in store. The game parodies and references things like: Goldeneye 007, Power Rangers, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more. These references and jokes are sometimes hidden within NPC interactions, or sometimes are the theme of a small mini-game tucked away in the game’s secret territory. If anything, Jazzpunk is full of variety. Everything plays with a sense of nonsensical fun, and whatever you’re doing, you’re rarely playing to truly win. There’s a whimsical sense of morbidity too, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Throughout the game you’ll find yourself doing exciting things such as: clearing a vase shop of flies with a flyswatter, throwing spiders on people, drinking “pigeon milk”, hacking into government computers, and so much more. All the while, NPC’s sprout off ridiculous commentary without context. While walking in a cocktail bar at the resort, patrons informed me that “the human mouth is a tapestry of horrors”, and “I have fourth degree burns.” I found myself chuckling at nearly everything, and laughing aloud almost every 5 minutes. This is due to the great combination of gameplay and visual style. As far as the technical aspect of Jazzpunk’s playability goes, it functions well. I only encountered one glitch that hindered my progress, but after reloading through chapter select, my problem was solved. The game controls smoothly and with precision when necessary. Whatever weird thing you find yourself doing in the game, it will never feel clunky or cumbersome (unless intended).
Jazzpunk: Director’s Cut is an intense hallucinogenic drug trip compacted into two hours and made into a video game. It’s also an oddly satisfying descent into madness, as each level gets stranger and stranger as the game progresses. Jazzpunk is a game that never lets you sit back and relax. It flies by in the blink of an eye, starting with a burst of laughter and ending the same way. From the colorful introduction to the credit roll, we’re treated to fourth wall breaks, incredibly ridiculous humor, and some of the most unique gameplay scenarios I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. It reminds me of WarioWare in that capacity, the ever-shifting focus of gameplay but central to one outrageous theme. If you’re a fan of wacky and fresh game experiences and don’t mind if it gets weird, Jazzpunk: Director’s Cut is totally for you. One thing remains true; Jazzpunk is the weirdest game I’ve played in the past five years.
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