The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: Jazzpunk

Jazzpunk 4
From this week forward I share an office with my roommate Simon, someone with an actual job a legitimate human might have. He’s a typist for a transcription company, so he listens back to conversations from legal meetings or market research or children’s tea parties and then provides written documentation. I’m only vaguely aware of the content because he’s sworn to contractual secrecy. If he were to be any more specific it might result in his termination (of employment, at least. I suppose it might stray further toward a threat on his life depending on the company he whistleblows on).

Playing Jazzpunk for review was our first test to see if this office arrangement is going to be successful long term. I do this Video Game Review Nonsense full time. I’ve been concerned I’m going to be a pain when I’m sat there umming and arring about the relative quality of Deluxe Block Stacker 6 while he’s got a five minute deadline to relay the new nuclear launch codes to the Pentagon. Like I said: I don’t really know what he’s up to.

This was a trial by fire for us both. Simon was sirened into looking over my shoulder at an eclectic mesh of design choices and inspirations, an acerbic Pop-Art, drawing a lot of flavour from spy stories but filtering it through a glow stick. Jazzpunk is like if you read Our Man In Havana during a rave and occasionally lost your place. It’s seemingly a different style of game every few moments, all vaguely tied to the story of a man doing odd jobs (emphasis on “odd”) for a secretive organisation.

Jazzpunk is like sucking a candy so sour it does lasting damage to your tastebuds, then willingly doing it another 80 times. It reduces 30 Flights of Loving and Warioware down to their base elements and smashes them together at high speed, later displaying the wreckage in the middle of the Tate Modern with a placard reading: “Fucking Look At This – 2014, A Video Game”. You aren’t asked to understand what you’re doing, where you are, why you’re doing it, why anything is happening. It just is. You’re just there. In 20 seconds you’ll be doing something else entirely.

Jazzpunk 1It’s the sort of game that relies on continually being surprised so I won’t stray too far into the moment-to-moment events. Let’s say: You’re a spy. You’re dropped into areas with a specific purpose in mind, the first being to extract a data cartridge from the Soviet Consulate.

The environments around you are topped up with a bunch of things you can interact with. They won’t do exactly what you expect them to do. Often you won’t know what to expect from them at all.

People probably felt the same way about Postal back in the day, but where that game goes for meaningless shock value, Jazzpunk tries for nothing other than to do something weird that’ll make you laugh.

Okay, I’ll spoil a part of it. I don’t want to but I have to. On that first mission you can talk to a man who asks if he’s got crumbs on his face. Out of nowhere a cartoon hand appears in the lower right third of the screen and you’re treated to a brief mini-game where you brush his jowls clear of any wheaty detritus.

You aren’t rewarded in any way for doing this. Completing this isn’t essential to your mission. This is just a thing that you were able to do in this world. Why? Fuck knows. That theme remains for the game’s brief, wonderful, runtime.

Jazzpunk 2If the aforementioned 30 Flights of Loving shows off anything, it’s that context for a player’s actions in a narrative game is easily supplanted by just giving enough instruction and leaving them to fill in the gaps. You’ll make progress in spite of yourself and reach your own conclusions regarding your actions. Jazzpunk doesn’t even ask you to do this. You’ll eventually begin to piece together a story but it’s… it’s not the draw.

Look, this’ll help. It’s being published by Adult Swim. Do you like Sealab 2021? Space Ghost? Aqua Teen Hunger Force? Yes? Okay; you’re in this video game’s demographic. Go purchase it from your preferred Video Game Internet Store.

Oh, Also:

This has literally nothing to do with video games and is just arseholish self promotion. If you live near or around London (or further away with extreme unnecessary dedication) and want to learn how to play the card game Netrunner I’m going to be hosting an event on the 25th of February (Table Top Tuesday) that aims to teach new players what it’s all about.

I don’t expect to actually achieve this because it’s a difficult goddamn game and I’m a poor tutor, but if you want to come along it’s happening at Loading Bar in Soho! Come hang out! It’ll be a blast! I’ll let you win, and by let you win, I mean I haven’t won a game of Netrunner in literally weeks. It’s almost a statistical certainty you’re going to be the victor.