When i started project backlog for new year, the backlog was not the only reason that i decided to undertake this project, one of the main reasons i decided to undertake this project was to stick a foot up my arse and finally get me blogging on a more regular basis and recently this has been very successful but that is no doubt due to me having a lot more time on my hands. Which brings me in a round about way to what this blog is all about, one day i may do a blog post without this woffle at the beginning but sadly for you that days is not today. Those of you who read my blog and i have it on good authority that at least one person does will recall that recently i reviewed what can only be described as a hidden gem in my game collection and that was area 51 (review here)and now a game i didn’t forget about but simply moved on from and that is Viewtiful Joe. This is a delightful game that i discovered while in college almost eight years ago, damn I’m getting old. How i discovered this game is a rather delightful story that i think may be going the way of the dodo as like many other retail industries games simply going to become bits and bytes are downloaded. by my college i used to there used to be a independent game store and at the back of this shop they used to have this massive 50 inch television at the back of the shop where they demoed the game of the week. When i was doing my computer degree me and some friends used to go and grab a subway and then go and play this game of the week. On one faithful afternoon the game of the week just happened to be Viewtiful joe and i played that game so much on this faithful afternoon that me and my classmates were actually late for are programming class. This was a long time ago and at the time Viewtiful joe a Gamecube exclusive and because i happen to be the biggest Mario and pokemon fan off all time i did indeed own a Gamecube. A wonderful small cube of a console that i think looks wonderfully quirky and was rather underrated in my opinion but then a console needs games and other than Nintendo there wasn’t much in the way of them. So after i had spent my much earn lunch break playing this game i went back that night and put my very hard earned money down and bought this wonderful game. I off course played this game a lot and got quite far into it but off course abandoned it and put it into the wardrobe uncompleted and thats because although its beautiful it is painfully difficult. That was until project backlog brought this game back into my life and now I’m going to review it for you my faithful reader.
The graphics on this game are wonderfully japanese and harp back to a much simpler time, these graphics would not look out of place on a saturday morning cartoon and by that i mean they are colorful, bright and wonderfully childlike and they just seem to warm you up. Although this game is nearly 8 years old it has aged well and still looks rather good and this is all down to its style of graphics. this graphical style is wonderful and fills me with such wonderfully warm feelings, the idea that all games have to be hyper realistic and have real world looking character models is a new one because right up till the ps2 more cartoony graphics were the order of the day and i think the world of gaming has suffered as a result. As game developers have strived to make there game more and more realistic they have only hindered the games replay value in my opinion, something i think they are too concerned about because this fact lets them release constant rehashes of the same game over and over again on consecutive generations of games consoles. The more colorful some would say immature nature of this games graphics lend themselves so well to his game. This game pitches itself as a comic book style game with much of the game taking place inside the fictional world of a boys imagination but more on the story later.
The graphics are not the only area of this game to take its cues from the retro gaming scenes and old school movies. The gameplay has also been very heavily influenced by what has been before it. This game spends much of its time in a pseudo 2d, What i mean by this is the game play is very much a 2d platformer with cues from mario and sonic but unlike those games objects in the foreground are accessible and actually change the gameplay somewhat, for example waterfalls will fill a room up if you speed up time and water drops will increase in size if you slow down time but more on this later. I think the easiest way to describe the 2d style of this game is for you to imagine a rubix cube, I know i know its a rather strange thing to ask but just bear with me there is a point to this. like the old school 2d beat em ups that have gone before this game requires you to dispose of the enemy before you can progress on through the level but unlike those game before which merely show an arrow the whole level rotates just like a rubix cube, see what i did there. So this game occupies a dimension somewhere between 2d and 3d which many titled 2.5d.
Other than the 2d beat em up old school gameplay their is another huge part of to Viewtiful Joes game play and that is the use of time. The use of time was very popular mechanic when Viewtiful Joe was first released all those years ago and like some other aspects of this game it has fallen out of favor with the gaming public who no doubt consider it lazy and unimaginative to use it rather than think up something new, I am off course kidding that is my own interpretation because as we are constantly being reminded by those who don’t understand gaming we are all immature children who laugh at the word penis, hehe he just said penis. The time mechanic allows you to speed up and slow down time and each is used differently throughout the game to help you advance. Slowing down time for example allows you to see bullets and fire them back at your enemy disabling them while speeding up allows you hit multiple enemies at once a very handy feature if your outnumbered i think you’ll agree. This time mechanic doesn’t just allow you too defeat your enemies it also has an effect on your surrounding environment, A fan will spin either slower or faster depending on which time power you activate for example. This time mechanic and it effects on the environment really helped the game developers to think up some rather imaginative puzzles and this is the part of the game that is truly challenging. lets be honest a 2d side scrolling beat em up is nothing new it has been done for years and i hope for one that it will be done for many more years to come but their is a tendency for the gameplay to get a little stale and this is why the puzzles are necessary, puzzles in games are somewhat of a tightrope though in my opinion. You have to include them but you can’t make them too difficult for the gamers or they get frustrated and quit the game but you cant make them to easy either or the gamers will get bored at the lack of challenge. This is a line that the game designer of viewiful joe have worked with absolute precision, they have created puzzles that challenge without frustration, these puzzles break up the gameplay and allow you to get a much needed break from the constant button bashing and stop the game becoming too overly repetitive.
The story of viewtiful is a rather simple affair and i like to describe it as the last action hero but in reverse, Now for those of you who don’t know what the last action hero is and i shutter to think who that might actually be but alas you are talking to a boy who has never seen indiana jones and thinks he has left it far to late to watch it now. The last action hero is an Arnold swazzenger film about a film action star who is sucked out of the world of make believe into the real world while until the initial conclusion were all is fine. viewtiful joe is a similar premise but in reverse in that rather than being sucked out of the film joe is sucked into the film after his girlfriend is kidnapped, What follows is joe fighting to rescue his girlfriend and save the world one cell shaded level at a time. The story is a rather simple affair and has been done a lot before but its an easy story to do and won’t facilitate any real complaints from gamers, so ill let the laziness go because I’m not that offend by it.
Now i played this game on the gamecube and although it came out on the playstation after some time its was originally designed to be an exclusive for the gamecube. This shows in the games controls which i would just to say are absolutely stunning and perfectly mapped to the gamecube controller, This is no doubt due to the game being designed with the gamecube in mind and was only ported to the playstion due to small sales. this game because of its simple concept has very little need for all buttons on the gamecube controller and as a result the z button and the yellow c thumbstick are just mirrors of other button functions. Most of the games commands can be undertaken with very little movement on the controller and the games responsiveness is just spectacular when switching from one ability to the other, its like cutting butter with a hot knife. They are simple stunning and elevate this game from good to excellent in my opinion.
This game has some wonderfully quirky touches to round out what i have already stating is a rather excellent game. The characters who use guns having cowboy hats, the tornado characters wearing tutus and the way the game ask me every time i pause it if I’m having a one or a two only add to the theatrics of the this game and show that their tongue is placed firmly in cheek. These little quirks are just part of it with viewtiful joe, with every aspect of this game having a larger than life feel with some of the most original end bosses i have ever encounted. this games shows a level of polish and thought that some games only wish they could aspire too.
Viewtiful joe has quirky and fun gameplay and with graphics that have held the test of time despite its being nearly 8 years old, an excellent control system and and brilliantly thought out time mechanic and just a general tongue in cheek attitude towards the game means i can highly recommend viewtiful joe to all gamers who enjoy a fun yet challenging game, although i will give you one word of advice and that is don’t even attempt to play this game on hard because you will contemplate murder of something very cute and adorable. like a baby for example. So you have been warned now go out and get this game, you can pick it up fairly cheaply on amazon for both the ps2 and gamecube so you have no excuses really just get ready to lose a whole weekend with its endless and infectious gameplay.