Based around the concept that jumping off ramps is fun (it is!), Joe Danger is a combination of influences. Clearly inspired by Nintendo's overlooked Excite Bike franchise, Joe Danger's a 2D motorcycle side-scroller, in which your objective is to traverse increasingly challenging platform-like stages while maintaining a chain of tricks a la old-school Tony Hawk. Sound amazing? It is.
Joe Danger includes a fairly lengthy single-player campaign, aswell as local multiplayer options and a fairly fleshed out level creation tool. It is available now from the PlayStation Store for just $14.99/£9.99.
When every other game released is a sprawling, epic battle of faked maturity, Joe Danger goes a long way towards reminding us that, at their core, video games are supposed to be fun. Joe Danger is fun in spades. Controlling the cartoony Evel Knievel-wannabe Joe Danger through bright, comical stages is a real treat. The titular once-famous stunt-man is on the crusade of a come-back, and you're behind the wheel, err, handle-bars. Playing out across a variety of series', you'll use Joe Danger's bunny-hopping skills to collect floating stars, gather-up coins and get Joe Danger qualification for the next tour. Stage challenges range from collecting the letters "D-A-N-G-E-R" (sound familiar?) to hitting a series of pressure-pads. There's enough objectives to keep every stage feeling fresh, but it's Joe Danger's super-quick restart button that make the game so addictive. Because you're not punished with loading screens, you'll find yourself replaying levels over and over again, in search of every collectible and the perfect run of tricks. This obsession is emphasised by the game's inclusion of post-stage scoreboards ("How the heck did he score that?"), and the fact that the game's core-gameplay is just so enjoyable.
Joe Danger is really slick. The controls and physics are just perfect - making every leap of faith and every stunt you perform as satisfying as humanely possible. You're able to manipulate your tricks by slamming on the L1 and R1 buttons while in the air, and this creates a chain. Linked stunts improve your chain, and henceforth your score. It's possible to chain an entire level together without breaking your stunts, and some levels even reward this type of play. Naturally, this obsession for perfection lends itself to the "one-more-go" factor that makes Joe Danger such an addictive proposition. It's just hard to put the game down once you start playing, and that's a testament to all that Hello Games have crafted here - from the level design to core gameplay mechanics.
Joe Danger is not afraid of blatantly acknowledging its inspiration. Far-from it, Joe Danger is a game blatantly inspired by a variety of titles from a range of different genres. The Sonic the Hedgehog-esque spring-pads give Joe Danger a suitably platform-like feel, with exploration actually a key component of a number of the game's stages. As mentioned earlier though, this is complimented by Tony Hawk-esque points scoring runs. What you get is a game that's more than the sum of its parts, a title which infuses multiple ideas and re-presents them with a smattering of its own. Labelling Joe Danger a next-generation Excite Bike would not only do Hello Games a disservice, it would also be factually incorrect. Joe Danger is so much more than that.
Included as a little extra, Joe Danger includes a sandbox mode which allows you to create your own dastardly stages. Crafting levels is as simple as hitting Triangle and placing objects on the track in front of Joe. You can then hop in and out of the create mode to test your level, making the whole process super-intuitive and a lot of fun.
While you can create and save your own level creations in Joe Danger, the game's Share aspect is a little disappointing. Perhaps we were setting our standards too high when we expected a full ModNation Racers/LittleBigPlanet-esque sharing hub, but that's only because it would be so incredible. Joe Danger's already ridiculously addictive as it is, imagine if you could download literally any player-created level from a central server — we'd never stop playing. As it happens, Joe Danger simply allows you to send your levels to friends via PSN message attachments which is adequate but, if you're listening Hello Games, we wouldn't mind a fleshed out share feature in Joe Danger 2. Just sayin'.
Joe Danger's greatest strength is its ability to pull you in for one more attempt, time after time again. Load-up Joe Danger and, like a motorcyclist catching big-air, the hours will literally fly-by.