A year and a half ago, Hello Games released Joe Danger for the PS3 to great critical acclaim. It was a light-hearted motorcycle platformer that gave players who loved either Excitebike or Trials HD more of that kind of game. Now, Microsoft has stepped in to publish the definitive version of Joe Danger and make the 360 THE system to go to with these kinds of games.
As Joe Danger, a one-time daredevil who’s mounting a comeback and needs your help to set new records that don’t involve his expanding waistline, you’ll take part in a modern-day Excitebike complete with obstacles and opponents. However, the reliance of proper physics to progress in a stage reminds one of Trials HD as well, essentially making Joe Danger a blend of the two best stunt bike games out there. However, what separates JD from the rest of them kinds of games is the emphasis on platforming. Proper positioning is key to making sure you not only clear an obstacle, but also get all the small stars and coins available. Not only does it feel good to do, but collecting all of a particular item will give you giant stars that act as currency to unlock new stages.
JD’s gameplay is easy to learn, but hard to master. The left stick moves you and allows you to do quick mid-air tricks, RT accelerates, LT brakes, the bumpers act as your big stunt buttons, X ducks and jumps, and A acts as your turbo boost. You can only boost after filling your gauge with either big tricks or wheelies, and you don’t want to use it in the wrong spot or else you can either crash or find yourself without the ability to boost when you desperately need it. As you can see, Joe Danger has quite a bit of depth to it and yet despite that, the controls aren’t confusing in execution. Now, it’ll take you a few races to get used to them, sure, but the learning curve is nice and gradual. You’re always given at least one stage to get used to something new, and you can replay a stage as many times as needed instantly - with no loading times whatsoever to restart.
Joe Danger’s primary mode is the career mode, which is split into sets of stages, each with their own goal. Some will require you to collect all the coins, others are pure obstacle courses that show how intricate the platforming can be as you’ll find yourself having to duck under a hurdle then quickly hop over a speed bump while still maintaining your speed for a big ramp jump. Others are races against the reviled Team Nasty, who will stop at nothing to win. Here, your boosting skills will be put to the test, and you can punch out your rivals if absolutely necessary.
The original game “only” had a ton of stages in the career mode, but the SE incarnation includes a whole new set of stages called “the lab” that test your mettle even more. It gives you dozens of new levels to play through, and is enough content to warrant a purchase even if you’ve got the PS3 version. On the off chance that the in-game stages aren’t enough for you, there’s an incredibly easy to use level designer that even allows you to play a stage as you craft it. It’s easy the most user-friendly level creator I’ve seen in a game, and allows you to make a passable stage in mere minutes using all of the game’s regular props and items. Plus, because you can play and test in nearly real-time, you can avoid issues that would really bother people, like placing items completely out of reach just because it looks like you should be able to reach it, without actually trying it out first.
I enjoyed the original release a lot, but didn’t like it as much as I thought I would and could never figure out quite why that was. Now, after playing it on the 360 controller, I see what the problem was. The PS3’s shoulder buttons feel somewhat awkward for this game, which relies on pressure-sensitive presses and very careful stick movements to do well in. The latter is fine, but the former is easy to mess up because of how easy it is to press the buttons in more than you’d like to. That’s not an issue at all with the 360 pad, which is about as perfect as one could hope for this kind of game.
Graphically, Joe Danger looks pretty good - it’s not going to wow you, but everything in it looks perfectly fine. The cartoony art style gives everything a light-hearted feel, and the bright, colorful environments add a sense of fun to the game. Joe’s rag doll animations after tricks gone awry are tremendous as well. The game’s audio is perfectly fine stuff, with music that is cheery but really forgettable, while the announcer’s voice work is outstanding and really makes each event feel like one. There’s a lot of enthusiasm in his voice, and it makes everything he talks about that much more exciting.
Joe Danger SE has some minor flaws, but the vast majority of the experience is both fun and very well-crafted. It’s a must-buy for 360-only owners who love the Trials and/or Excitebike series and missed out before due to its PS3 exclusivity. Even for PS3 owners, the lab stages and greatly improved controls due to the 360’s controller are worth rebuying it for. Avatar awards are a nice bonus as well.