Captain Smiley is not a household name. Even though he sports a friendly exterior and has a good sense of charm, his comic books just aren't interesting enough to keep the superhero employed. His books are being ripped up or, used as toilet paper or worse. He would be happy to be called a D-lister. Clearly, something needs to change. It's time for an extreme superhero make-over!
This is the set-up for Twisted Pixel's newest action game. This young developer has successfully conquered both 3D and 2D, with The Maw and 'Splosion Man. Now they have their sights set on something a little more personal. For their next game they have decided to write themselves into the story, creating one of the most compelling concepts of the year. Who cares if the dated gameplay gets in the way, Comic Jumper proves that a great idea can make up for a lot of minor problems.
So how exactly does one go about remaking a superhero? If you're Captain Smiley you hire Twisted Pixel to develop a machine that will literally shoot you into more popular comics. The plan is simple, guest star in a bunch of successful comics so people will know who this yellow-headed freak is. If they earn enough money and clout, they'll re-launch the comic book and turn Captain Smiley into the shining star he's supposed to be.
Oh wait ... that shining star isn't Captain Smiley at all. Instead it's the Captain's biologically attached sidekick, Star. While Smiley is often nice and courteous, Star can be a real jerk. He says what he means and isn't afraid to sugar coat it. The two are constantly at odds, bickering like an old married couple. Star doesn't do anything, he just sits there on the chest making discouraging comments.
In order to earn enough money, Captain Smiley will need to star in three classic comic books - Nanoc the Obliviator (1974), Improbable Paper Pals (1961) and Cutie Cutie Kid Cupids (1998). These three comics (along with Smiley's own 2010 book) couldn't be any more different. Every element of these levels is different; from the era-specific bosses to the cultural references to the bad guys you fight. And best of all, the levels keep getting better the further you get.
The parodies are obvious enough, but what makes this game special is the close attention to comic book history. While the Conan the Barbarian jokes make the early part of the game chuckle-worthy, it wasn't until the second set of levels where I sat up and took note of the clever concept. Suddenly I went from shooting dinosaurs in a prehistoric world to having to worry about staying within the comic book code of conduct. That means no excessive violence or profanity.
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