Publisher: Necrophone Games & Adult Swim Games
Developer: Necrophone Games
Genre: First Person Adventure / Puzzle
Release Dates: February 7, 2014 (EU & NA)
Price: 12,49€ (Steam)
Easter Eggs have become a common practice in video games, with even the biggest titles nowadays having references to other video games, movies and pop culture in general, but I never imagined an entire game could be built around just having a ton of Easter Eggs squashed into one experience, that was until I played Jazzpunk. This game is a blend of meme culture and comedy in a way that doesn't feel forced, as you are free to explore and discover all of those Easter Eggs on your own, some of which will instantly resonate with you even before the punchline if you know what that moment is referencing, while others require some work just to get to the punchline. There are Easter Eggs referencing lots of different things from a wide variety of categories, including other video games, common game mechanics, movies, music and politics, but even if you're not getting the reference most of them are just funny to begin with and there are just lots of those moments scattered across each mission, so even if you won't get all the jokes, there will be at least some that you will get and the humor is present in all of them.
You could play Jazzpunk by just doing the missions and finding a few of those moments along the way, in which case you could complete the entire game in an hour or two, but that is not the way Jazzpunk is meant to be played. Even though each section is small in scale, every corner of it has some sort of Easter Egg planted there, so exploration and interaction with the characters is encouraged if you want to get the full experience. You play as Polyblank, a secret agent working for Nexus6 tasked with a few missions, each which takes places in its own small section that can be explored at will. Even the way those missions are set up is comical, as The Director will give you a bottle of pills meant to transport you to the location before each mission and that is how you get to explore different worlds, each with its own theme. From the 1960s streets to exotic resorts there is a lot of variety when it comes to the locations where each mission takes place, however there are only a few of them in total since the game is very short to begin with. As for the missions themselves, most of them are fairly easy to complete and there is no way to die or fail the objective, but just sticking to those would be a mistake, since the biggest chunk of Jazzpunk's material is located in the side content, talking to all the characters around the location, picking up every item and interacting with everything you can in order to find out each Easter Egg and reach the punchline of that joke.
Jazzpunk is an environmental exploration game, which means most of the gameplay is walking and interacting with characters and items, there is no challenge and no way to fail, leaving you with the opportunity to explore how much you want in each section and then complete the actual mission in order to move on to the next one. The best part is that even though the sections where the missions take place are fairly small, they are packed to the brim with side content; almost every item or character that you will find in the world has an Easter Egg attached to it and it's up to you to naturally discover it by just exploring the world and trying out different things. You may get an item from a character with instructions on what to do with it, but trying that item with different objects or on different characters will result in a different joke. Naturally not everything works, but a lot of things do and that moment when you realize there's an interaction that should reference something that you know and then it does it, is always priceless, like placing a pizza on top of a turtle.
You would think that Jazzpunk is just a walking simulator where characters start cracking jokes if you click on them, but that would be an understatement, as a lot of Easter Eggs lead to surprising outcomes such as having clones of popular arcade 80s games as the punchline, including versions of Frogger and Space Invaders just to name a few. On top of that you have the items which can interact with objects or characters and many of those items have more than one use, so trying it on everything will eventually lead to a joke, but the true satisfaction comes when you connect 2 things that are supposed to reference something when put together, and then they do. Since this is a small budget game you would naturally expect some bugs and I've seen quite a few during my playthrough, but nothing really broke the game or forced me to restart the entire section, it's always small things like being able to walk through some objects or the physics going crazy.
There is also a Multiplayer mode called Wedding Cake, which is basically a Doom-like first person death match with ridiculous weapons such as a cake gatling gun or a champagne bottle that shoots corks where the first player to reach a specific number of kills wins. There are multiple maps to play on, although all of them are tweaked versions of maps from the campaign with more paths added to fit a multiplayer environment. This mode might keep you around for a few more hours especially since it leads to many comedic moments, but it will eventually run dry since even the multiple map selection won't change up the basic gameplay and there are no additional modes aside from a classic death match.
One quick glance over any screenshot from the game will tell you everything you need to know about Jazzpunk's graphics, there are no surprises and no breathtaking moments in the scenery, it all looks bland and basic which makes sense since the game was developed using the Unity engine, which isn't known for its breathtaking graphics, but rather accessibility for smaller developers. Obviously the retro look is intentional considering the theme of the game and in many ways the graphics will remind you of early 2000s open world games like Shenmue, but even so a few more details in the scenery wouldn't hurt, as for most of the times the environment looks lifeless and abandoned, even with the many characters placed around it; it feels like every object in the game was put there with an Easter Egg in mind, and for the majority of instances that is exactly the case.
Not every character in the game is voiced, as many of the side characters don't even need a voice to make a joke, but the voice acting that is here is decent and the sound effects are used incredibly well to put emphasis on some punchlines, but the best thing about Jazzpunk's audio is its soundtrack, which fits the feel of the game perfectly and that opening is probably one of the most drug inspired moments I've seen in a while in a video game. That one song in the opening isn't a one case deal, as there are over 20 tracks over the course of the game, each fitting the moment where they're used perfectly.
You can finish the campaign in around 3 hours, although you can add a few more if you decide to look into every corner for Easter Eggs, but aside from that there is no replay value as most of the jokes won't be as funny a second time knowing the punchline already. There is also the multiplayer mode which might keep you occupied for a few more hours if you're digging it, but don't expect it to last as there is no progress system whatsoever, so every time you start another match, it will mostly be the same thing as the previous one. On top of that you have the separately sold Flavour Nexus DLC which adds another mission and while it isn't anything special, it is more Jazzpunk filled with more jokes, so if you're looking for more, the low price of the DLC is worth it for the laughs alone.
Jazzpunk feels like a relevant video game considering our internet culture where everything is turned into a meme and it packs quite a lot of jokes considering its limited run time, so if that is something that peeks your interest Jazzpunk is definitely an experience worth playing. The game does come with its problems and occasional bugs, but that won't ruin the thing that Jazzpunk does best, its humor; graphically a lot of improvements could've been made, but if playing any game from the early 2000s today won't bother you, neither will this.