I find myself trapped. Everything around me is made of pizza. I have a pizza cutter in my left hand, and a spatula in my right. The screen says, “Use Left/Right Trigger to Dual Wield!” I have only one choice: I must destroy the evil pizza-men trying to attack me. After finding sanctuary in a cabin, the world begins to distort, and I hear nothing but evil laughter in the background.
Suddenly I’m coming out of the pizza-computer, and am back on the street. What the hell just happened?
That moment, as absolutely insane as it is, pretty much sums up Jazzpunk for me.
Jazzpunk is, for lack of any better comparison, a first person adventure game. You are some sort of agent, in some sort of world, with changing goals from level to level. You take drugs to start missions. You do crazy shit on every mission. You come back. Rinse. Repeat.
Describing exactly what Jazzpunk is would be incredibly difficult, because after the five or so hours I put into it to “finish” it, I still have no clue. From exploiting jokes about paranoia and espionage, to pointing out the ridiculousness of some foreign culture, Jazzpunk is itself a big joke and has its fun playing around with pop culture and stereotypes. Yes, the game is kind of a joke, but it’s a supremely funny and well-executed one that had me crying from laughing on several occasions. At times, the gags never end, and it’s all for the better, because some of the classic to even horrifying jokes and subject matter covered in this game don’t merit time to contemplate, you just need to accept them and move onto the next one.
The beauty of Jazzpunk is really the pieces that put it together. It has a great art design that is odd, but somehow appealing in its own right. You can’t lose at any point in the game, which encouraged me to play around and spend extra time just goofing off in the world. It’s packed with mini games like the Pizza World and a wedding-based first person shooter called Wedding Quake. It does all of this and somehow remains cohesive, through all of its madness. It truly does feel like a singular artistic vision.
The game has you perform outrageously weird acts, such as swallowing a pigeon to smuggle it into the next level or murdering flies in a vase shop. Honestly, I don’t really want to tell you the extent of it’s mechanics because that would ruin some of the magic. The moment I described at the beginning of this review is a real thing that happens in the game, and had me laughing hysterically while also genuinely screaming in terror. As the game goes on, it just gets weirder and weirder, to the point where I questioned, “what’s the point of all this?” I got my answer, and it was excellent.
Right off the bat, Jazzpunk came off a little as “trying a bit too hard” in the weird department, and it sort of is. The craziness of pigeons swooping in and abducting someone off the street coupled with Wilhelm’s scream definitely says, “do you think it’s weird yet?” At the same time though, the demeanor of the world and the carefree nature of everything you see and hear just endears you to the weirdness. It was fun and funny, and I had a blast with all the crazy antics happening around me. Jazzpunk also quickly changes the tone of, “trying to be weird,” to a kind of anthem of, “I’m weird and I don’t care.”
But as I explored the world, the few flaws with Jazzpunk started to stick out to me. Mechanically, it is kind of weak. I played it with a controller, and the controller support is a complete mess. You’ll be able to suffice, but problems like a small deadzone definitely stick out, since I could almost never get the camera to stay still. Also, things looked janky in a way that felt like they weren’t supposed to. It’s definitely hard to tell with Jazzpunk, but they were distracting from the overall atmosphere of the game, such as characters disappearing in front of you or their models jumping around a bit.
Regardless of any minor problems I have with it, Jazzpunk is exceptionally charming. Its quirky world and its great references to gaming and pop culture had me laughing almost from beginning to end. Its own plot is even treated with this levity, and it comes full circle in the end as something absolutely insane; from the opening scene, to the credits scene. Yes, Jazzpunk is weird, and describing it is even weirder and harder, but I will say this, the one perfect word to describe this experience from beginning to end is: Jazzpunk.