Jazzpunk Review


Jazzpunk is an adventure game in much the same way that Monty Python's Flying Circus is a TV show. There's the general structure of an adventure game here, but it often distracts itself for the sake of a joke, an aside that takes a life of its own, or simply because it finds itself easily distracted. I'll try to convey what the game is generally "about", but you should take it as literally as you do the description for an episode of Monty Python in a program listing.

Jazzpunk is set in a 1960s-ish alternate universe that's part Cold War, part cyberpunk, part The Prisoner, and part Ren & Stimpy. You are Polyblank, a secret agent of sorts, assigned tasks along the lines of infiltrating the Soviet embassy. None of these are tasks that play out anything like you'd expect, being less traditional game missions and more exercises in the absurd, and they're filled with strange distractions that whisk you away to alternate universes to play odd mini games that exist for no purpose other than to, well, exist. I'd love to give you some examples, but they wouldn't make things much clearer and doing so would certainly ruin some of the strange surprises that await the game's players.

The game is played using the WASD keys and mouse, a deliberately intuitive control scheme for a game that doesn't like to take the time to tell the player what to do. While there are hints here and there, the game encourages the player to explore its world and try things out just to see how they work. There are puzzles here that follow the traditional adventure game model of finding an item to use to interact with another thing somewhere else, and while they are sometimes unintuitive none of them are so obtuse as to be unsolvable within a few minutes. Some of the puzzles can also be solved in multiple ways, so this is a game that rewards multiple clever solutions rather than the one solution it happens to think is the cleverest. There's a lot of "I wonder what that will do if I stick this in it" in the game, and that's where a lot of the fun lies.

Those who enjoy veiled, and blatant, references to games, the internet, movies, and the like will find plenty of in-jokes to enjoy in Jazzpunk. Sometimes there's so much packed into the levels that you'll miss them the first time through and will have to play the game again to catch them all. With all of the jokes and references it's inevitable that a lot of them miss the mark, but that doesn't stop the game from trying. It certainly all makes for a unique game experience.

It's probably needless to say this, but Jazzpunk will not appeal to everyone. If you don't like things that are odd simply for the point of being odd, then stay as far away from Jazzpunk as possible. You should also avoid it if you're looking for a traditional adventure game with a set sequence of puzzles for you to solve in traditional ways. However, if you enjoy indie games that don't bother to stick to any of the conventions and enjoy things that most people find weird, than Jazzpunk is singing your kind of tune.

Final Rating: 78%. Like both jazz and punk, it won't be appreciated by everyone.