Successful comedy in games isn’t as rare as some make it out to be, but consistently-funny titles we almost never see. Jazzpunk, the new adventure from Necrophone Games, is a combination of the best Leslie Nielsen comedies and spoof films from a particular era jam-packed into one tiny game. Its brand of humor may not appeal to everyone, but it’s undeniably clever, charming and consistent in its approach to comedy, even when it seems nonsensical at times.
You play as Polyblank, a faceless and voiceless secret agent for hire working a number of jobs that initially seem like typical spy fiction but eventually become unpredictable. Describing Jazzpunk’s narrative (if you can even call it that) is a daunting task, as it never makes much sense to begin with. This is, however, one of the highest compliments I can pay the game, as its nonsensical nature paves the way for the absurd in some of the funniest ways imaginable.
Jazzpunk plays just like a traditional adventure game would. You interact with the environment in various ways and collect items to store in an inventory for later use. There aren’t many puzzles to solve, and the ones that do exist should be obvious to even the least observant people. This isn’t what makes the game special, though. While Jazzpunk traps itself in a traditional format, the world around you is chock-full of bizarre characters and even stranger objects that make it worthwhile to explore every nook and cranny.
Every mission you go on is full of “side quests” to complete, which you discover by talking to the game’s various characters. You usually stumble upon these by simply exploring, so they aren’t too difficult to find, but they take you in some strange places. The first mission alone had me shooting pigeons with a degausser and helping a frog cross a busy street full of oncoming traffic to reclaim his virtual-reality headset. Oh, did I mention this game is full of video game and other pop culture references?
It may all seem like random nonsense at first, and maybe it kind of is, but there is cohesion to Jazzpunk’s nonsensical nature that makes it all work. Some jokes will completely come out of nowhere, while others will tie in with earlier gags, making it all make sense in some ludicrous and entertaining way. Not every joke will work on everyone, but the majority of its brand of humor never failed to make me laugh out loud.
If there is one downside, it’s that it all ends rather abruptly, leaving you wanting more. Maybe if it had gone on longer it would have run out of steam, presenting you with final moments that fall flat, but it’s hard to say. I did, however, have an overwhelming urge to start the game right from the beginning as soon as the credits finished rolling just to see what other silly moments I missed the first time around. This speaks to both its strong writing and sheer number of jokes that are scattered throughout the game’s handful of levels.
It’s not going to win everyone over, but Jazzpunk is a rare example of a game that is not only hilarious, but consistently so. It handles spoof comedy in a way you rarely see in games and does it intelligently, even with its sometimes random nature. If you’re looking to spend a good 2-3 hours laughing at pure insanity, you can’t go wrong here.
Pros: Hilarious writing, plenty of amazing gags, varied environments to explore
Cons: Disappointingly-abrupt ending, style of comedy may not be for everyone