One thing that can easily make someone very leery of a game in development is when it's something unexpected from a game developer. If a company famously known for making RPG's suddenly announces an action adventure title you can never be entirely sure of how it's going to come out. While this wasn't initially a concern with Comic Jumper, since Twisted Pixel showed some range by releasing an action puzzler followed by a platformer.
Unfortunately Comic Jumper is just about one of the greatest examples of every single mistake someone who isn't used to make an action game can possibly make, stringing together into a giant, frustrating mess of a game.
Comic Jumper is the story of Captain Smiley, a big doofus of a hero who only has the fact that he can get hurt a ridiculous amount to his "powers". In the early portions of the game his comic book is taken away from him due to it... well due to it sucking horribly. However the good folks at Twisted Pixel give him a second chance by creating a device that lets him "comic jump" into other comics, acting as a guest star. This is all in the hopes that he will eventually make enough money to get his own comic book started again, hopefully becoming a household name.
The humor is essentially the selling point of Comic Jumper and all of it is very good. With the esteemed Christopher Sabat lending his voice to both Captain Smiley and his smart aleck chest icon, Star. Everyone from the incredibly amusing Dr. Winklemeyer to your voice in the radio Gerda down to the variety of parodies and villains Smiley must battle are voiced incredibly well and it makes the game a joy to listen to. Even the visual style helps with the humor by changing how the Captain looks based upon what comic genre you've entered, varying from the Silver Age Captain Smiley, complete with holograms and ray guns, to the Manga Captain, looking like a Final Fantasy reject.
Unfortunately that doesn't extend to actually playing the title. Combat is essentially a gigantic mess of confused gameplay design. There are three main modes of gameplay and all of them are basically broken.
The first gameplay sections are the melee zones These are exactly what they sound like; you get to run from one side of the screen to the other punching and kicking enemies in the face. All you're doing here is literally cramming on the attack button, occasionally pressing the second attack button to knock back enemies on either side of you. This is the extent of which any strategy enters into these sections. They're about as simple as one of the pre-NES video games which makes them ridiculously boring and utterly beyond simple.
What you will spend the most of your time doing are the run-n-gun segments. In these you can actually jump, climb ropes, slide to avoid enemy attacks and just generally move around far more than you can in the other modes. To compensate for the increased range of your movement there are a ridiculous number of enemies, cheap shots and general frustration waiting for you. Due to the zoomed in camera enemies will literally spawn in a few steps away from you meaning if you don't react immediately, or have everything memorized, be ready to get hit.
Lastly you have the "on-rails" segments. These are the middle ground between the previous two areas in that your actions are limited, it's not too hard or too easy and there aren't really that many cheap shots. Frankly these are some of the most enjoyable parts of the game since the action can get really frantic while you move side to side, jumping out of the way of attacks as they come flying at you. Unfortunately these sections are hampered by somewhat sluggish controls that don't exactly respond the way one would hope so you'd best be dodging that attack the moment you see it coming.
The difficulty in this game, fake difficulty might I add, is only compounded upon by the fact that there's zero punishments for failure. If you die then you lose out on some money upon completing the level as well as being sent back to your last checkpoint. But in almost all situations being sent back is actually helpful since you are brought to full health. After dying you can then almost always push through the area that just killed you, muscling forward to the next check point. Since getting through the level without dying gives you a relatively small bonus this has little impact. To help with the frustration every time you lose twenty five percent of your life Gerda, your assistant, chastises you for taking damage or just plain tells you to stop sucking. It's funny the first dozen times you hear it and then it just starts getting beyond annoying.
What the developers did instead to force you to replay missions and frustrate the player is to constantly bring up sections where you can't be hit once without forfeiting a huge bonus. These sections are the height of ungodly annoying video game sections as failing them can seriously hamper your ability to better your character and failing them will often happen due to a random cheap shot you have little chance of avoiding without memorizing that section of the game. Generally these sections require you to crawl through them, moving slow as molasses in the winter, while getting enemies to spawn as slowly as possible so you can kill them before being rapidly overwhelmed.
To be fair requiring the player to be slow and methodical in how he handles enemies isn't a bad idea. The problem is that these sections happen far too regularly (about once per stage) and often come up during boss fights. Most of the bosses are very easy to kill without dying, even if you only have a little bit of health left, but they often have one or two attacks that take many, many deaths to learn how to avoid properly and end up costing you that bonus multiple times. It's... trying to say the least.
With incredible graphics, great sound design and a fantastic sense of humor one would imagine that this game couldn't possibly fail, especially in light of Twisted Pixels' previous works. Unfortunately the gameplay is nowhere near up to the caliber of the rest of the game. Every aspect of the gameplay is just disappointing, falling short of any expectations that one might have had for this title. It's a shame too as it has a lot of promise that the experience itself just can't live up to.