Lights, Camera, Cliché! As the mine cart’s wheels begin to bellow with friction against the tracks, Joe finds himself back in the spotlight filming his very own movie. Pretty sweet gig, too, unless you count the grenades and lava pits. Hello Games is at it again with the sequel to 2010’s PlayStation 3 timed exclusive indie hybrid of Trials and Excitebike; and while the original Joe Danger offered a straightforward take on racing with some platforming, Joe Danger 2 takes that that concept and accelerates it to new levels of depth. The result, however, concludes to a sputtering mess when the dust all clears…
Liberally borrowing from Trials as usual, Joe Danger 2 takes place across completely different stages each with their own unique aesthetic and associated premise to objectives involved. It does a lot to distinguish the game from the repetitive Evil Kinevil motif from the original. The new role involves him acting out action scenes for different movies under the watch of a director for different roles that involve anything from Skiing down a bright and snowy mountainside to operating a jeep rover through colorful jungle trails. The change of scenery serves to please both visually and functionally as it supports the perspective for different vehicles to be controlled - each with their own specific set of physics and mechanics - some feeling smooth and while others sluggish and stiff. Like the others mentioned before, Joe is no longer limited to a stunt bike as he can now pilot a Snow Jet Ski, or a jetpack. Each with their own rules and capacities that are put to the test when applying them against stage and its many perils, all of the vehicles feeling plausibly different from the last in how they're handled and managed. The four wheeled vehicles are a cop out though, and feel the most out of place with it being near impossible to actually screw up a landing even when there should absolutely have been no way for you to stick it. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on gravity or anything but when your mobile lands upside down and drags along the ground until you shift momentum back into an upright position, there’s just something about that notion that doesn’t sit well. The change of physics are refreshing but therein lies the most glaring flaw in one of the most essential fundamental mechanics for a game like Joe Danger 2; the control.
The control from the original is virtually unchanged, and while it managed to work for setup and singular law of momentum the same can’t be said for the sequel. Each vehicle as mentioned before has its own set of physics to pay attention to, but the control of the game isn’t properly expanded to compliment the new framework for movement from the once annoying to now aggravating layout for button mapping. The notion of having the duck button (used for hurdle obstacles) also acting as the charge for jumping and the occasional obtuse double jump that seems to execute whenever your nailing the ever-changing timing it requires (which totally differs from vehicle to vehicle) will escalate any player into needless levels of frustration before certain sequences are finished. The control no longer feels awkward but spotty instead as it descends into the realm of feeling broken as the game progresses, especially when contrasted against the new assortment of obstacles.
Throughout the levels are contextual objectives relating to the premise of the set, which will need to be accomplished along with the usual tasks from the previous entry such as item collection and speed attacks. New objectives like keeping a combo of tricks chaining during an entire race while collecting certain items or completing tasks are fun to the point of meriting additional plays in order to complete them. Granted that's if you can keep composed despite the major control issues. A new element that adds some solid depth is the ability to change the plane of roadways on a multilayered track, transitioning in between them during available intersections and zipping through certain obstacles felt fun and completely tactile unlike the rest of challenges on the tracks. The Player ranking has a unique twist as the game will not only rank you amongst online friends but against players above you in score ranks for that particular stage. The completion ghosts of those closest to you in higher ranks will even only generate when you have reached the amount of takes they had to have undertaken during their play which creates a drive to avoid seeing their ghost when retrying a run to assert superiority. Seeing short statements like, “you completed this track 92% faster than others before you” feels more gratifying then you'd initially imagine.
The graphics and visual design still have an awesome flair of whimsy and charm that’s inherent from the original but done up to an even crazier degree with themes and gags that involve all these referential nods to famous action movie of cinema culture, cheesy puns included. The flamboyantly bright visuals and cartoonish designs are still prevelant but infuse a look that's enhanced, and sharper to the existing concept for the game's design. The challenge factor, though challenging in some cases for the wrong reasons, bites down a bit harder this time around with all of the objectives to be found but goes the extra mile to ensure your efforts are more rewarding than the mere bragging rights we were reduced to tolerating in the prior title. Playing with skill yields unlockable costumes, additional levels, and items to be used in the level editor mode; one of the more noteworthy additions to the sequel. Titled "Movie Maker," this mode was a bit deceptive at first as any player would generally assume that it was meant for the videos you're able to record for any track run. But this is not the case. Working with whatever setting you desire and tossing as many crazy obstacles and hazards as you can dole out to then play and share captializes on the already present user-generated content scene on Playstation network. Choosing different levels to try and rate stands as one of the two reasons that you would ever return to Joe Danger 2. The other reason: the surprisingly fun multiplayer. The frenzied play between you and other players is shallow but effective to the degree that you're simply trying to one up you're opponent. The guidlines of objectives feel more vindicated as they're used as a tool come out on top against the others instead of meeting arduous benchmarks to advance in some one dimensional campaign.
Joe Danger 2 had a lot of potential to be a great sequel, but it's held back by the fact that all of these new features do nothing to reinvent or enhance the established formula. These features instead feel more like DLC for the orginal game, and using the same button-mapping and action dynamics for platforming and ducking or using awkwardly assigned buttons for tricks to build up a boost meter is no longer a minor flaw for a colorful racer but instead a major setback for an evolved physics engine that isn't complimented with the intuitive controls it demands. If you really enjoyed the original, you'll find more of the same and a little something more but everyone else is better off with superior contemproaries like Bit.Trip Runner or Trials Evolution.