What is Jazzpunk? When I opened up the game for the first time, this was my question. A self-proclaimed comedic adventure game and “poorly designed word processor?” Count me in.
And when I completed my second run through the game, my question became:
WHAT THE HELL IS JAZZPUNK??? And the answer is, quite simply, one of the best adventure games of its time.
Jazzpunk, developed by Necrophone games and published by the notorious cable network [adult swim], is indeed a first-person adventure game with a distinctive style. Set in an alternate Cold-War-era universe, its simple, dynamically colored popping style screams of decades long ago.
Opening in baggage claim in a Japanese airport, the player takes control of Agent Polyblank on his secret missions for an unnamed, affiliation-unknown intelligence agency. The game is centered around chapters, each covering a mission where Polyblank must infiltrate the Soviet Consulate, retrieve a kidney, and take a vacation to name a few.
The missions themselves are short. Completing the missions alone without deviating from the path only takes about an hour and a half, and at first blush this might make the game seem like a waste of time and money. This couldn’t be more inaccurate.Players “sticking to the main quests” will never see this image.
This is the kind of adventure game where organic exploration is earnestly rewarded with giggles, side quests, and jaw-dropping moments of subtle and absolutely-unsubtle comedy. Jazzpunk sets itself apart not with a gripping narrative or memorable characters but with an abundance of hilarious moments strung together in a series of hallucinogenic adventures.
If you’ve ever watched and enjoyed things like “Get Smart” (the TV series), “Naked Gun,” “Airplane!” or “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” then much of the humor of Jazzpunk will reach you. Even if you haven’t, the game’s spontaneity and utter absurdity will touch your funnybone without a doubt.Everyone’s a winner!
Fully playable minigames like “Wedding Qake” and a Slenderman-esque pizza zombie short? Check. Multiple Fruit Ninja parodies? Check. Cap’n Crunch and thinly-veiled Star Wars references? Double check. Nothing is sacred in Jazzpunk, and everything is a valid target for hilarity.
The game plays like an ancient first-person shooter. WASD-movement, an ‘e’ key for using stuff, and a rotating inventory keep things simple and smooth. Almost every “NPC” can be interacted with, and objects that can be used get a dashed white line to make things a little easier. This is a welcome feature, as seeing if something is usable requires very close proximity to the object.
Which is fine though, because so much of the world reacts to the player’s passing as characters give side quests and little comedic vignettes for no reason other than to elicit some laughs. In fact, the game never gets boring. Every time the player branches out to do something meaningless, the game maintains a cool, secret-agent-man vibe.I wouldn’t mind living in Japanada.
Jazzpunk accomplishes this primarily through its attention to detail. When the player enters a building through a window, a roll is executed to a brass fanfare. Travelling around the world Indiana Jones-style over a hilariously altered map of the world is complete with little red dashed lines and elevator music. Dialing the Kremlin from a secure line sounds the Tetris theme as hold music.
If it seems like the game’s great moments are made by the music, then you’ve got the right feeling. Featuring an original soundtrack composed by Luis Hernandez, the feeling of roaring 50s jazz grabs the player right from the intro and never lets go with classic spy-movie brass segments and cheesy TVLand sound effects.Fruit Ninja brought to you by a human disguised as bowl of fruit.