Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley

Not to be confused with hideous novelty knitwear or a former Changing Rooms presenter, Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley, is developer Twisted Pixel’s love letter to the comics industry and classic old-school shooters like Gunstar Heroes and Metal Slug. As with their previous releases, The Maw and the superb Splosion Man, anyone tempted to part with their 1200 Microsoft Points (let’s call it a tenner) is in for a treat.

Looking like an ’emoticon on steroids’ and presumably sharing a stylist with Bananaman, Captain Smiley is a superhero on the wane. His readership figures are down to the point where his comic is cancelled and the self-righteous Captain Smiley, his rogue’s gallery of villains and a sidekick that despises him (the mouthy star emblazoned upon the Captain’s chest, cleverly named ‘Star’) all find themselves unemployed.

That is, until the good folks at Twisted Pixel step in via the swiftly-shattered fourth wall to make Captain Smiley an offer he can’t refuse; the TP gang have devised a way for the cash-strapped Captain to guest star in other character’s comic books; to become the eponymous Comic Jumper and reinvigorate his flagging career! Excelsior!

Played for the most part as a 2D platformer shooter and strictly singleplayer, control of Captain Smiley will be familiar to anyone who picked up the ace Shadow Complex not so long ago – controlling the Captain’s movement on the left stick and aiming his twin pistols via the right stick, with the face buttons used to jump, slide and trigger one of videogame’s greatest screen-clearing smart bomb attacks. Occasional QTEs pop up along the way as well as infrequent but amusing melee combat sequences and some on-rails shooting sections, ensuring there’s just enough variety to keep you hooked throughout.

From the awesome opening to the climatic finale, Comic Jumper is a stunner with a remarkable attention to detail, impressive visual effects and production values that put more or less all other downloadable games to shame. This is undoubtedly a textbook example of what GamesTM referred to as a ‘Single-A game’.

Over the course of Smiley’s adventure you guide him through four visually and aurally distinct areas split into 12 levels, each faithfully and lovingly based on a particular comic style and each seeing Captain Smiley’s appearance altered to perfectly fit in. In order of appearance these are: Modern, Fantasy, Silver Age and Manga.

As with the game’s visuals, each of the game’s four styles has its own distinct soundbank of music and effects, with one particular highlight being the horn stings that accompany your daring feats in the Silver Age and the songs (yes, songs!) you’ll encounter along your path – on that note, be sure to check out the Stats screen and sample the elevator music heard during the pause screen!

Those unaccustomed to 16-bit conventions be warned: there are no recharging shields, no health packs and no mercy. What you’ll find is a continuous barrage of projectiles from all angles, minimal room for error and one heck of a steep learning curve.

Boss fights are sometimes taxing affairs as attack patterns are barely telegraphed, forcing you to learn such patterns by rote trial and error rather than on-the-fly, which is a bit of a disappointment. At times Comic Jumper’s challenge seems a step too far and with no choice of difficulty level some players might find the journey to the superb finale a stretch too tough even with plentiful checkpoints.  For those who can adapt to the old-school sensibilities, though, the challenge is hugely rewarding, each conquered level an invitation to return and climb your way up the hotly-contested online leaderboards.

To aid your route to the top, Captain Smiley’s skills can be upgraded by spending your hard-earned score gained after each level or mini challenge. As well as increasing your health and the damage you dish out, this in-game cash can also be spent on unlocking a wealth of DVD-style bonus features, delivering an unprecedented level of fan service and an insider’s glimpse into the creation of this superb game. For those interested, you can also unlock several Gamerpics, Avatar awards, a Premium Dashboard Theme and new levels for Splosion Man, giving you great value for each of your 1200 Microsoft Points. Once again, Twisted Pixel puts other developers to shame, and their efforts should be applauded.







2 responses to “Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley”

  1. Dean avatar

    I wasn’t going to get this, but actually from your review it sounds brilliant. I love your description of him as an “emoticon on steroids”:)

  2. Ninja avatar

    I only learned of this thanks to The NeXus or whatever it is; thought it was some kinda spoof game at first! That little feature made me laugh though, this review sold me the game. Yes, game on! 😉

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