I bloody loved 'Splosion Man. The combination of tongue-in-cheek humour and a unique twist on the platform genre made it one of the must-buy XBLA games of 2009. With that success, developer Twisted Pixel's follow-up, Comic Jumper, had a lot to live up to, and it seems the pressure was just too great. While the new XBLA game is undeniably funny and packed with character, the core side-scrolling shooter gameplay feels tedious and poorly implemented [alongside a constant onslaught of enemies]. As your loud-mouth co-star, Star, mutters at one point; "there's a lot to complain about". He's not wrong.
Comic Jumper is set in a bizarre world in which the stars of comics lead lives similar to Hollywood actors. The biggest stars get their own comics, while the up-and-comers have to take bit parts while they try to make a name for themselves. Captain Smiley is a star, with his own comic and all the glitz and glam that goes with it, but things turn sour after the first level of the game. The yellow-faced man isn't performing well enough, so his comic is cancelled and he's forced to enter other publications in order to rebuild his reputation.
This setup allows Smiley to transport himself into rival comics by using a machine similar to the time travel device in Timecop. Each title he visits has its own unique look and style, and this makes for a diverse range of stages. From the prehistoric dinosaur-battling antics in Nanoc The Obliviator, through to the Japanese manga craziness of Cutie Cutie Cupid Kid Cupids, the creativity on show is never anything less than stellar. In fact, for the most part it's this inventiveness that will keep you playing through the duration of the adventure.
Comic Jumper is predominantly a side-scrolling 2D shooter, with the hero blasting enemies with a gun. By default aiming is handled manually using the right analogue stick, but there's an aim-assist option available if you want it. With so much stuff going on and enemies coming at you from all directions, this isn't an easy game. Manual aiming initially feels like the only option, as using assists seems like a cop-out, but you need to focus so much on avoiding attacks that a bit of help comes in handy.
You'd think that classic scrolling gameplay would be good fun, but the amount of enemies and bullets trying to kill you makes the experience quite stilted. Given the light tone of the story and the bravado of the main character, it's downright frustrating having to repeatedly stop to take out enemies that absorb too many hits. This is a game where it feels like running and gunning should be the way to play, but that's just not possible – even when you've bought some much-needed upgrades.