Somewhere in the video game journey, we must have started to become set in our ways when it comes to defining what’s a game and what’s not. Then came games like Gone Home that are more like “anti-games”, or “games that are not games”. All of a sudden, there’s this whole debate on game formalism, arguing about what a game should and should not be in definition. If that wasn’t enough, here’s a game that confuses those sticklers even more.
Jazzpunk is not the usual game. It’s not about shooting enemies in the face or getting the highest score. It looks a bit experimental, but it seems like the developers knew exactly what they were doing when they churned this game out. It does look quite unusual though with a unique visual style and characters with no faces, which takes from Modernism. There is a noir vibe, yet it’s lighthearted as well that you’ll see for yourself soon enough. The developers Necrophone Games came out with such a striking title, and it also helps that it was published by Adult Swim.
In this game, you play as a secret agent named Polyblank, who is half James Bond and half Jacques Clouseau in dealing with the world that is half ’50s noir and half cyberpunk (hence the title). You are to complete various missions given to you by the Director, which can be done by exploring wherever you can and talking to whoever you meet. As you go around, you’ll find tons of absurdist humor and other elements that all go for cheap and cheerful laughs. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, you can’t help but be amused by the in-game world full of characters that go out of their way to get in a joke or pun in whatever situation.
A lot of people may find the novelty and the apparent lack of definite direction to grow old rather quickly. That’s alright since the game plays at around two to three hours on average if you play it straight through. Perhaps it’s because the pace set by the first half of the game doesn’t get carried over that well in the second half, so it peters out before it should. The sense of wonder from being thrown into such a visually distinct world and the subsequent weirdness carries momentum for a good while, but it later drops the ball as it seeks to come up with a conclusion to the adventure. While it can be said that stories are only good if they have an ending,
This game does well as an aesthetic showcase, taking its Modernist roots and running a bit wild with it. While the visuals sets the tone, the soundtrack seeks to tie everything together and root them to a theme. Most would think that a game that tries to be funny a bit too hard would usually fail, but this game is so earnest in its attempts to make players laugh that it is what defines it. If you’re into games that don’t fit in established genres, then this does quite well. It’s not the type of game that you could speedrun because finishing it really isn’t the point of it.
While short, Jazzpunk is definitely sweet. It’s a not a game for winning and finishing, but for experiencing and exploring. You can stay awhile and have a laugh in this wonderful mess of a game. If you’re a fan of movies like Pink Panther and The Naked Gun, or you have a thing for the gonzo stylings of Hunter S. Thompson, or watched Fight Club and actually noticed that it was satirical, then maybe you’ll get to appreciate this game for what it really is.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8/10