There are numerous examples of funny games, but in these the comedy is somewhat secondary or just one part of an equal equation. Portal is a very funny game, but it’s also an excellent puzzle game where the meat of the gameplay is about making you think rather than making you laugh. Jazzpunk is a funny game, but it stands out from the pack by being a true comedy game. Jazzpunk has no other aim but to make you laugh, its gameplay is all about facilitating jokes and this is what separates it from other games and also what makes it hard to judge. It’s possible that with something so subjective as humour that Jazzpunk may not work for some, but the dedication to gags combined with the sheer lunacy and creativity on display, make this game hard to resist. It may not always tickle your funny bone, but the places the game goes and the things it makes you do are so brilliantly off the wall that you have to experience it.
The sole appeal of Jazzpunk is the sense of humour, there is no inherent worth to any of the games mechanics outside of how they are used. This is a huge part of Jazzpunks charm though; it’s not burdened by convention and is able to just throw things at the wall to see if they stick. The very core of the game is a first person adventure game. You walk around and interact with things, there is some light puzzle solving but it’s not a puzzle game. The puzzles are just elaborate jokes where the solution isn’t one you have to work out before hand, plan out or think out. You just work your way through a level and by purely interacting with what is around you it becomes clear what you have to do. In fact, such is the lunacy of Jazzpunk, a lot of the time you are just poking at the world and your poking sets into motion a sequence of events that complete your goal. The idea here is just to exist in the world and to interact with it, it is just a way of delivering jokes to you in the form of a video game and it works excellently.
Another wonderful part of Jazzpunk is in how it shoots off into tangents. Minigames pop up with some regularity and place you in completely alien scenarios. Some of these are excellent video game parodies, some are just weird, and all of them are utterly inspired. These minigames often drop you in whole new games (like a Frogger clone) or just make you do something odd like ‘degauss’ pigeons. These latter style are brilliant because they give you an item to complete your objective (in this case a degaussing gun), but it’s an item you can also just use in the level. The levels are designed so that using this item in unconventional ways has a great pay off, and once again by just poking around in Jazzpunk you are treated to some fantastic jokes.
This all adds to the frenetic pace of Jazzpunk, it’s a game that doesn’t rest on its laurels. It’s reminiscent of comedies like ‘Airplane!’ where the jokes don’t wait for you to catch up, they just keep going. They are utterly persistent and really varied. The result of this is that one joke not hitting feels inconsequential as the game has already moved on. However this isn’t really a crutch that Jazzpunk has to fall back on, as the game is consistently creative and hilarious throughout. There are gags everywhere, some hidden and some overt. The minigames make it so you are constantly changinh what you are doing and the design of the levels themselves makes for an environment where you keep being surprised and amused. Jazzpunk is a hugely creative game and it is a joy to just be in this world and play around in it.
There’s a story premise to Jazzpunk, but it’s just an excuse to place you in a world that suits its off the wall style of humour. You play secret agent Polyblank in a world where people look like the male and female symbols on restrooms. The aesthetic is very reminiscent of Blendo Games’ 30 Flights of Loving (or Gravity Bone). It’s a relatively simple aesthetic, but it oozes style. The presentation is just sublime throughout Jazzpunk, it is styled like a Hunter S. Thompson fever dream of a cold war era spy movie, that had a brief fling with a 60s Sci-Fi flick in Japan. It’s weird looking, but in a good way. Your job in this weird world is to complete assignments. Your director gives you a goal and hands you some pills, you take the pills and you get a countdown to the start of your objective.
The mission set up is akin to a comedic Hitman game, where instead of having multiple ways to take down a target you just have multiple jokes you can experience. One key difference is that things will always be the same and interactions can only go one way. However, there are still plenty of well hidden secrets that make experimenting with the world worthwhile. The real similarity to Hitman though, is in the level structure. You are in defined spaces that you can explore, in which completing the main goal isn’t really the point. The point is toying around with the area and the sense of discovery. In Hitman this leads you to working out more creative kills and ways in which things can interact, in Jazzpunk you just find crazy jokes. Hilarious and well implemented crazy jokes.
Jazzpunk is a very short game and, due to the nature of humour, not one that carries much replay value. It is however fantastic for what it is. By being short the pace is never allowed to stop and you never get too much. It’s somewhat tiring due to its persistence and they shove so much into this short time that you do feel fulfilled. There’s a lot to see in Jazzpunk and you do some amazing things. So many moments are hugely memorable and any lover of the weird or the obscure will find so much joy here. Further on from this, it stands out as a great example of how to make a comedy game. In this regard it shares its stage with the (admitedly superior) Stanley Parable, but even that game isn’t as laser focused on just making you laugh. Jazzpunk does one thing, but in committing to that one thing it has an inherent variety. It’s funny, it’s clever and it’s incredibly creative. Even if not all the humour hits with you it is an easy game to admire and for these reasons it’s a must play.
Jazzpunk is a hilarious adventure through utter madness. A must play.