The 1960's were a strange time, atomic paranoia fueled the cold war as the space race allowed mankind to make monumental leaps forward technologically. Global espionage was the tool with which the cold war was fought as agents from both of the world's super powers battled for information and technology. Amidst all of this, counter culture exploded and use of psychedelics became a new past time. Jazzpunk uses this period of time as an aesthetic springboard for it's comedic hijinx and in doing so plays out like an episode of Saturday Night Live with an overarching theme to it's skits.
It would probably be most appropriate to categorize Jazzpunk as an adventure game, as players are placed in the role of Polyblank, a secret agent who is dispatched from an abandoned subway station on various missions by a character known as The Director and each one of these misadventures is kicked off by swallowing a pill. The narrative is flimsy, and each mission plays out almost like a skit. An antagonist is introduced in the later missions and helps provide some closure to the game's events. Jazzpunk focuses more on humor than plot and it makes this the kind of experience that you turn on, tune in and drop out of. It assaults players with non sequiturs and irreverent easter eggs. Players can expect to stumble across a frogger style mini game, wander around in an Evil Dead inspired setting made out of pizza, play mini golf with a James Bond style villain and beat up a passenger car Street Fighter II style. It's a tribute to all things nerdy with plenty of tech based humor and refrences to other games. The Adult Swim style humor, a style that makes it seem like being in an altered state of consciousness is a prerequisite to enjoy, is likely to put off many.
Also potentially off putting is just how easy the puzzles are in Jazzpunk. Most players will find themselves progressing unopposed since most levels are as simple as following the instructions laid out in the objectives screen. There are a handful of side quests but they have no bearing on the proceedings and generally exist to provoke a few laughs. Some of the diversions like Wedding Quake, a wedding themed spoof of the classic arena shooter may hold players attention for a decent amount of time but the whole of Jazzpunk lasts a few hours at most and offers little replayability. Think of Jazzpunk as more of an alternative to watching a comedy film than a game poised to occupy a dozen hours of your life. It could be argued that Jazzpunk is most rewarding when you are avoiding the critical path since interacting with random objects and poking your nose around generally uncovers the best easter eggs and gags.
The aesthetics of Jazzpunk leave a favorable impression. Seemingly modeled after Thirty Flights of Loving, it employs blocky characters with simple animations and cell shaded styling. The funky soundtrack adds to the unique flavor of the game making it feel like nothing else as well as helping sell the off beat humor. The aestetics, soundtrack and gameplay click together like legos, delivering a unique experience that in spite of the fact that it borrows liberally from other works.
Jazzpunk is kind of a nightmare game for reviewers... To describe it in terms of the quality of it's gameplay, visuals and the amount of time players can wring out of it simply misses the point of the game. Potential Jazzpunk players should think of it instead as an interactive comedy experiment. An off beat experiment. While it may not stand out as a great game it is a little experimental indie gem that may have an impact on the humor and style of other titles. Turn on, tune in and drop out.