In the world of platformers, style is often the thing that sets a game apart. With so many challenging entries into the genre, an interesting art style paired with precise gameplay can come ahead of the pack. In this instance, Electronic Super Joy from Michael Todd delivers on the art and sound, but falls short on the controls.
In traditional style, Electronic Super Joy is a challenging platformer along the lines of Super Meat Boy. There is little story to speak of. Most of the dialog is from nameless characters spouting weird pseudo-philosophical catchphrases. Events don’t seem connected. You’ll even find yourself fighting the pope in a spaceship at one point. The writing can be amusing and good for a laugh or two. But as is usually the case with a game like this, the story isn’t worth much thought.
The real draw of this game is the sound design. The sound effects are fun and a little twisted. Whenever you respawn or pass a check-point, a near pornographic type of “Oh Yeah!” plays. While this is off-beat at the best of times, it adds a unique flavor that meshes well with the music. When you use the drop stomp, you get this satisfying crack sound, like a beat on a snare drum. The sound track is probably the best I’ve heard in a game for sometime. It’s a brilliant techno sound that blends together into a happy trance. The music is beautiful and creates a unique mood that compliments the art style exceptionally.
The stark contrast of color is beautiful. The character and level design are mostly black with a few white accents. These black elements stand out against the colorful backgrounds. Each level has one theme color and variations on that. Blended with it are lighting and accessory designs that add unique flair to every stage. Some stages even have the lighting play a part in the level design. One I that I vividly remember is a level with a pinwheel that covered the level in black and white. The half second where the black covered the screen, the platforms where hidden, adding to the challenge. The use of color makes the game a visually stunning trip.
Sadly, exceptional art design doesn’t make up for bland gameplay. With a game like this there are two criteria, the controls have to be tight and when the player fails, it needs to feel like their fault, not the games. Electronic Super Joy‘s controls are adequate. They work most of the time, but the stomp is sketchy at best. There have been plenty of times where I knew I should have landed on an enemy and I end up dying instead. With small platforms, I’ve over shot them when it felt like I should have made it. The loose controls add to the feeling that, while there were plenty of my own failures, the game itself got in the way. Sometimes it’s the level design, sometimes the camera. One peeve I have is a camera that will only slowly pan as the designers want it. When you do well on a stage but have to wait for the camera to catch up and allow you to go forward, it ruins the flow and sometimes gets you killed. The player skill isn’t rewarded in that instance.
Electronic Super Joy is an adequate game. The art and sound design is beautiful and worth mentioning. But the lacking gameplay brings the whole experience down. Super Meat Boy may have spoiled us. Despite it’s challenge, it always fell on the player when he/she failed. This game is worth your time for the art and sound, but only platforming nuts will take the time to get the most out of it. You might be better off just buying the soundtrack.
Summary: Beautiful art and sound can only carry an average platformer so far.
Verdict: 6 out of 10
The game is available on their website and on Steam.
Review by Todd Naevestad