If you haven’t heard yet, there is a certain fever dream of a game that begs you to experience it. Yes, that is a clam in a beret smoking a cigar. No, it doesn’t really do anything besides sit there and be a clam that wears a beret and smokes cigars. Sure, that may be considered random humor, the kind that has been plaguing the Internet for the past few years, but that’s only on the surface level. Jazzpunk isn’t only an exercise in absurdist humor, but a fascinating game that tests that very humor in the strangest and more interesting ways I’ve ever seen.
Jazzpunk is yet another entry in the growing line of ‘interactive experiences,’ meaning it’s less of a game and more of something you poke at until you see all its nooks and crannies. Any type of game fitting this description pisses some people off to no end, but I’ve always approached games as experiences to have, so if I enjoy poking something for a few hours, I will be just as happy as playing an 80+ hour RPG. That may turn some people off, but fuck those people, they don’t deserve to enjoy the surreal insanity that Jazzpunk begs you to pour down your eyeholes into your brain cup.
Developer: Necrophone Games
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Released: February 6, 2014
If Jazzpunk was just a series of nonsensical occurrences to get a few chuckles, it would be fun, but not fantastic. It becomes so much more than that by building a sensical world out of the nonsense. The world of Jazzpunk feels like a place where all this random tomfoolery would take place. It also helps that the plot is done in a mission-style structure, so hopping location to location feels natural. That’s not to say that you’re going to get some sort of deep and engaging plot, but what you will have is an enthralling bout of whimsy and non-sequiturs that you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s very rare for a game to really surprise me. I spent the 2-3 hour runtime of Jazzpunk with my mouth hanging open, asking myself what the hell was going on every five minutes. I finished it it two sessions, the first of which my girlfriend watched and remarked that it was weirdly funny. The strange absurdity brought in someone else while it kept me constantly on my toes. If that isn’t praise, I don’t know what is. Just sit back and enjoy the weird.
Whether you will enjoy Jazzpunk can be determined by your enjoyment of absurdist humor. It’s not simply a game that has some wacky going-ons, Jazzpunk is an experiment in interactive humor unlike anything else on the market. Go ahead, spray cheese-wiz all over Jim Sterling’s face. Play a few rounds of Wedding Quake. Play golf with a pool cue. The intensely strange world of Jazzpunk is yours to explore and I found nothing within that disappointed. This is a game that knows exactly what it wants to be and expertly executed that strange, surreal vision.