PAX East Preview: Graduate from the Comix Zone with Comic Jumper
Twisted Pixel has been on a roll for the last two years. In 2008, The Maw was part of the PAX 10 indie game showcase, and won the user's choice award. In 2009, ?Splosion Man could be felt across the gaming world, picking up awards left and right as it blew people away with its originality. They announced Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley at PAX Prime in September, and this past weekend, at PAX East, they gave eager fans their first glimpse with a quick ten minute demo to show us the progress they've made.
Unsurprisingly, the story is quirky and interesting. The game centers on Captain Smiley and Star, his mouthy and sarcastic sidekick who also happens to be a literal talking star attached to his chest. The Captain has his own comic book, but discovers that he is losing fans and readership and has to do something to revitalize his image. Working together with his creators at Twisted Pixel, he has to jump into other comics and fix them, earning money in order to relaunch his own comic, The Adventures of Captain Smiley.
The first comic shown is his own, and right from the start, the cheesiness of that issue ? right down to the corny villain ? show right through. The camera zooms back to show the cover, then zooms right into the middle of things. Captain Smiley is getting a transmission from Gerta, who informs him that the bank is being robbed. Unexpectedly, this is pleasing news to Captain Smiley, who is eager for some action. Gerta is less than excited about it, but he ignores her and tells Star to get up, because ?it's smilin' time!? But when they arrive, it's a trap, laid by Dr. Winklemeyer ? he has Gerta tied up, and speaks of being disgusted with the bank and its endless fees for everything from drawing money out to going to the bathroom on the floor.
The signature Twisted Pixel humor shines through here, but that wasn't what caught my attention. What I loved the most was that as this dialogue went on, the backdrop to the action was the bank, while each character popped up in a small panel whenever they were speaking. Clever, original, and entertaining, the game engages and entertains the player right off the bat.
From here, the gameplay begins. Captain Smiley runs on a side-scrolling tear through the bank, punching, kicking, and tossing robbers left and right. The tutorial pops up here, telling the player which buttons to push for attacks. Money flies and explodes all over the place as he goes from crook to crook. At the end of the fight sequence, he jumps out of the panel and into another, ending up on a roof, where he argues semantics with Star (?The gig is trumped!? Captain Smiley smugly informs Dr. Winklemeyer. ?Up!? Star moans, ?The jig is up
!?) and runs into his arch-nemesis, Brad.
Playing the stereotypical ?cool? guy, Brad tells his robotic babes that if they take out his enemies, they can hold his sunglasses while he works his muscles. Even Star is desperate for Brad's attention, calling out compliments and trying to engage him in conversation. From here, the game changes from the earlier melee combat to side-scrolling gunplay that gets crazier and funnier with each passing section. Captain Smiley shoots wave after wave of the lady robots, all cooing Brad's name as they fight. They break through windows, spewing glass everywhere, and follow him up several flights of stairs and across platforms. They climb higher and higher, the ridiculousness culminating in a scene where he rides a robot down the diagonal roof of a building like a skateboard, a scene that elicited much laughter from the crowd.
Next, Captain Smiley runs through a building, and this part is all about the Quick Time Events ? press buttons as they pop up to avoid the grasp of enemies and get through a series of doors. The sound effects here are excellent, harkening back to the old school 8- and 16-bit days of yore. At the end, he jumps through a window, ending up on another roof with even more gunplay, and finally confronting his arch nemesis again, who he wants to fight ?Man to Brad.? The demo ends here, just as this boss fight begins.