Games of 2014: Jazzpunk

Sweeping generalisation time: games aren’t funny. Some are, sure, but that comedy is almost always passive, a character delivering a scripted one-liner or a witticism to you, the audience. Jazzpunk boldly takes a different approach, making you an active participant in its punchlines. Most interactions in the game prompt a surprise of some form, though often it’s the surreal nature of the scenario that jabs at your funny bone. Either way, it can’t fail to make you laugh, whether you’re squirting liquid cheese at the jowls of an old man, playing a wedding-themed FPS or ridding a vase shop of a flea infestation and smashing all its wares in the process.

It’s hard to see many other games following its lead, because comedy by its very nature is inefficient: any core game mechanic produces a specific outcome, and thus that vital element of surprise is lost. Jazzpunk thrives on its ability to deliver unique responses to similar interactions. It subverts expectations at just about every turn.

Not every gag hits home, of course, but it doesn’t just throw joke after joke at the screen in the hope that the odd one will hit. They’re carefully, intelligently spaced, each given room to breathe – even with the player often in control of the timing. It’s a bona fide original, and a stylish, smartly crafted one at that; it may be inefficient, but it’s never undisciplined.

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