By Phil Schipper / October 1st, 2013
|Title: Electronic Super Joy
Publisher: Michael Todd
Developer: Michael Todd
Release Date: August 23, 2013
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Age Rating: N/A
Many games have their own unique sense of style that subtly fills their every aspect. Then there’s a few that slap you in the face with it as soon as you get a look at them. Electronic Super Joy is one of those games.
From the getgo, the game hits you with awesome techno beats, from its amazing 22-track soundtrack by EnV that gives the game half its atmosphere. These songs are all reflected in the vibrantly-colored backgrounds, full of spinning lights, stars, flowers, visualizer bars and more. The foreground is made of pixelated, retro landscapes and characters that are all black silhouettes with small splashes of white for eyes and other small details. In other words, you’ve got the impression of a dark room with brightly strobing lights and filled with great techno music.
And a dance floor is exactly what the game’s 45 levels feel like. Electronic Super Joy is platform hell at its finest. Jumping onto the right platforms will soon be the least of your worries as the game throws in enemies, lasers, missiles, shurikens, portals, and a variety of little objects that can launch your character straight up in order to fly towards distant platforms. Most levels scroll automatically, and in some you can even be killed by getting to the front end of the screen too fast. Wall-jumping, grabbing keys to open big roadblocks, and sprinting across icy platforms to make long jumps across them are just a few of the extra challenges that are sometimes added in–even when the screen is right-side-up.
Though it starts out with simple running and jumping, you’ll soon be offered a couple of other abilities. “Smash” is an instant ground-pound that passes through traps (but not lasers) and kills whatever it hits. Later you’ll lose this in order to get a double-jump instead, and then the game will start messing with you by taking these away and giving them back whenever it feels like it. Late in the game you even get the power of flight for a limited time, forcing you to dodge those evil projectiles more than ever.
Whether you’re leaping through a blinding front of black-and-white lights, carefully dodging through a gauntlet of missiles and lasers, or frantically climbing up a scrolling tower of platforms and launchers, the game will always find a way to challenge you. Early on your saving grace will be the generous placement of checkpoints, each one of which lets out a satisfying (and suggestive) cry of “Ohhh yeahhh!” These repeat when you respawn at them, too, so they’ll be your constant companion as you die over and over. The hilarity of this can save some levels of Electronic Super Joy from turning into electronic super rage.
Of course, eventually it’ll get smart and start giving you less checkpoints–in some painfully long areas, none at all. And you definitely won’t find any while fighting any of the game’s massively difficult multi-level bosses. These long sequences bring close to each of the game’s three main worlds, another way of breaking up the usual flow of gameplay. For example, the first of these, the Pope, will greet you at the end of a rather short, tame level. Then he’ll drive his spaceship into the next area, a frantically scrolling upward climb that doesn’t allow a second’s delay, and after you’ve done that you’ll grab your own to face him in a little bullet hell sequence. Finally, the craft will face off against a raver with a rocket launcher, which you activate by grabbing the rockets from different points on the battlefield–while dodging the Pope’s own barrage of missiles and lasers, of course. Afterward, you get the satisfaction of using Smash to finish him off personally.
The game does have a small amount of story, mostly told at the beginning and end, that refers to the hero only as “you.” Other details are filled in by the random raver characters that speak short lines when you pass them in each level. Of course, it’s about as ridiculous as you’d expect.
All these different facets come together into an insane, lucid blur of fast-paced dance party goodness. There is no escaping the music or the trippy graphics and mechanics that accompany it. This feeling comes with a persistent difficulty that only ramps up higher as the game goes on. Bosses in particular give you some ridiculously hard challenges–you might wonder at first how some of these levels are supposed to be possible. While some levels do give you a bit of a break, most of these also have the option to step off the beaten path to grab the hidden stars. These unlock four hidden bonus levels after the main game is finished, and these are even more madly difficult than those that came before. The game’s achievement system also challenges you to not only get all these stars, but also to get through every level with the fastest possible times and no deaths at all. In other words, asking the absolutely impossible. It’s one feat to finish this game. It’s another to get even one of these achievements, even the small ones that ask you to complete a specific level without destroying anything.
Besides these hellish prospects, though, you’re left without anything to do after the main story is done (and the ending isn’t exactly a big prize, either). With only three worlds, and as many boss sequences to accompany them, Electronic Super Joy isn’t the longest title. A real expert, dying little, could theoretically finish the game in just a couple of hours. It took me at least 8, but that’s only because I really sucked at it and found myself dying dozens of times at certain junctures.
It was, however, time well spent. It’s a great experience for $8, although it then becomes tempting to spend a little extra on the soundtrack. There was a lot of great, fast-paced platforming goodness going on there. I feel that my gaming skills definitely improved for the challenge. More importantly, though, I gained a great appreciation for electronic music and trippy lights. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an epic dance party to go organize.
Review copy supplied by publisher.
Electronic Super JoyLinuxMacmichael toddPCPC gamessteam games