Like the golden stars you obtain at the end of most levels, Joe Danger is a treasure not to be missed.
Joe Danger is a highly accessible arcade-style racing game that’s almost impossible not to love. Although disguised as a side-scrolling motorcycle game like Excitebike, Joe Danger shares many similarities with classic platformers such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros. and the result of such a unique combination is an engrossing game that’s hard to put down, even after dozens of hours of playtime.
The premise behind Joe Danger is extremely simple. In the game, you play as a stuntman known as Joe Danger and you navigate through timed-limited courses as you try to fulfill various objectives. So you guide the determined daredevil through some expertly crafted levels filled with trampolines, huge ramps and objects that hinder your progress. The main protagonist can move from left to right, he can reverse and he also has the ability to jump and duck obstacles. The most important feature though, is the ability of controlling the motorcycle in the air, which allows you to perform some truly impressive tricks. Pulling off a string of tricks not only is beneficial to accrue points, but also fills up your boost meter. Using the boost meter increases Joe’s speed, so carefully administrating this gauge is a must if you want to get to the finish line in one try.
The core of the game is career mode where you need to play short missions to get cups, hidden stars or a specific number of points. Your progress is determined by the number of stars you have and the goal of this mode is to defeat your nemeses, the members of Team Nasty. But while most levels in the career mode encourage you to get to the finish line in as little time as possible, other levels feature some entertaining events. Events include four-player races, target-landing and coin-collecting.
Thankfully, Joe Danger is much more than a simple arcade-style racer. In fact, levels have more in common with Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario Bros than with most racing games and this unique concoction is makes this game so absorbing. This influence can be seen in the inclusion of vertical loops, spikes and so on and so forth.
One of the reasons why Joe Danger is so entertaining is because the game seldom stagnates. The single-player campaign mixes different types of levels, so one minute you’re collecting a series of coins and the next you’re racing against some fierce AI-controlled opponents. Then you collect letters from the word “danger” as you try to make it to the finish line in time. All of that, while you jump into the air and perform some insane combinations of tricks. If by any chance you get tired of one mode, there are many other modes to choose from. That said, I found Joe Danger frustration-free. Even when I was playing a level for the umpteenth time, at no point did Joe Danger become an arduous process. This is a game that gives you all the tools to succeed and then pushes you to achieve that. So when you finally reach the finish line, it’s hard not to have a grin on your face.
So apart from career mode, the game offers a plethora of other modes, including training ground, costume gallery, ultra hard preview, sandbox and multiplayer. As its name suggests, training ground is a series of short levels where you can practice all the different mechanics you’ve learned. The costume gallery is the virtual place where you can see and select the costumes you’ve unlocked, but to unlock more costumes you need to spend the extremely hard-to-get pro medals. The ultra hard preview is an obscenely difficult level that only a handful of dedicated players will finish (note: I wasn’t one of them.)
Sandbox mode let’s you create, share and download levels. Interestingly, your first introduction to the level editor is in the career mode. Some levels encourage you to pause the game and change their layout so that no objects hinder your progress. Each level has everything you need to reach the finish line, but items such as ramps, buses, small cars or trampolines have been misplaced and you need to rearrange them. Editing courses right before you play them is eminently satisfying and making some basic changes to the layout of a level so that you can make it to the finish line is very entertaining.
Sandbox mode let’s you create a level from scratch and if you’re patient enough, you can use the editor to create levels similar to those found in the single-player campaign. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, creating a basic level is fairly simple. At the click of a button, you have access to dozens of objects that can be placed pretty much anywhere in the track. Additionally, those items can be rotated to make some of the most creative and ambitious tracks. If creating your own levels isn’t for you, you can always download levels other players have uploaded.
There are some multiplayer options as well, but it’s unfortunate that the only way to play with others is through local multiplayer. The lack of online multiplayer is definitely a shame, since playing against people from all over the world would have been a great addition to the game. Even if you have friends to play with locally, the shortage of multiplayer modes is disappointing, so if you were hoping that this aspect of the game was going to be as absorbing as the single-player campaign, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
If you’re looking for extra content though, the PC version of the game has some innovations when compared to its console counterparts. This version has enhanced graphics, Steam Workshop integration (which let’s you share and download levels) and Steam Big Picture mode. Still, one of the most important features of this port is the ability of using your mouse and keyboard to control Joe. Although the best way to experience Joe Danger is with a controller, mouse and keyboard controls work quite well, especially when it comes to editing levels. Pulling tricks, jumping over objects and landing on targets it’s still as precise and thrilling as ever, even when you use mouse and keyboard.
In conclusion, Joe Danger is thrilling, gripping and fun. Its levels are highly replayable and the experience is extremely accessible. It also helps that this arcade-style racing game has enough content to keep you engaged for dozens of hours. Like the golden stars you obtain at the end of certain levels, Joe Danger is a treasure not to be missed.