Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble
Video game heroes are overrated. Whatever happened to the days when the good guy was someone fresh and original, who could breathe life and vigor into any situation? Where have the personality, the spunk, the very soul of heroism gone in these past few years? The average game treats gamers to a recycled character, lacking the substance and wit necessary to appeal to the masses. In truth, video game heroes have gotten boring. Yet in this dismally thick fog of mediocrity, one hero shines forth as a beacon for all that is good, righteous, and downright kick-ass in the gaming world. His powers are legendary, moves revered, and style unquestionable. He annihilates evil with the kind of grace and finesse that only he can muster. That’s right, boys and girls. Viewtiful Joe is back. And this time, it’s personal.
After his epic crusade through Movie Land, Joe was finally able to take a break from being a hero. With no need of a hero, he reverted back to his original hobbies: cramming down fast food, goofing off, and obsessing over old movies. Along with his girlfriend Silvia and sister Jasmine, he spent his days lounging around the movie set of his mentor and idol, Captain Blue. However, Joe’s lazy days were short lived. During the filming of the new movie, a bunch of evil goons appeared and stole the movie’s film reel. While this crime might not seem of the same magnitude of previous villains, our hero’s inherent sense of justice could not be stopped. Thus Viewtiful Joe begins his quest anew, with a rekindled fury flowing through his cell-shaded veins.
There’s one small problem though: Joe isn’t inside Movie Land, so he can’t use some of legendary skills that he honed to perfection in the previous games. Sure, he has the bright red jumpsuit and the signature pink cape, but he’s lost a few of his fancy VFX moves of old. He can still slow down time, allowing him to dish out some delightful punishment with incredible punches and kicks. The hero comes with a few basic moves that allow him to pummel, punt, and juggle his foes into submission, with his powers simple augmenting his strength. He can also use the Touch Screen to stun enemies, get close-up screen shots, manipulate the background, and throw objects around. While these new powers are nowhere near as awesome as the traditional Viewtiful Joe moveset, they are not necessary for your survival in battle. Thankfully, the classic battle mechanics remain unchanged, allowing you to wipe out your foes with timed attacks, dodges, and jumps. But if you feel the need to wreak some havoc, you can mix and match all of Joe’s powers to create the most awe-inspiring assaults ever seen on a handheld.
However, this game isn’t just about slaughtering inept baddies. Like the previous installments in the series, this game is peppered with dozens of small puzzles that stand in your way of progression. Sometimes it’ll involve hitting a switch, moving a certain object, or tapping the screen with the stylus. Other times you may have to slow down time to get through some hazardous area. While these riddles are meant to keep you on your toes, they are far too numerous. They require Joe to use his powers, which are limited by a tiny gauge at the top of the screen. Getting though a level becomes a chore, making you use Joe’s Touch Screen powers with perfection, lest you run out of power or time your actions incorrectly. It’s not that they’re difficult to solve; they simply require you to put forth a little more control effort than normal. The DS’s less-than-stellar ergonomics make these puzzles a true hassle, forcing your fingers to juggle with the shoulder buttons, the directional pad, the buttons, and the stylus to get the job done. The uncomfortable puzzles are offset by a remarkable lack of challenge, making the game a breeze to finish.
Thankfully, not everything has changed for the worse. While Viewtiful Joe has made the jump from the consoles to the handheld, his appearance remains almost the same as his original form. The success of this transition is mainly due to the cell-shaded animation style used to depict the series. Everything in the game is drawn like a comic, from the plants, buildings, and sky in the background to the metallic foes and Joe’s signature pink cape. While the Touch Screen gives a broad perspective of the level, the top screen shows a closeup of the action, allowing you to take in every detail. You’ll get to traverse through different movie sets, each with its own theme. You’ll get to wander through urban wastelands, take down Robot-Cops and Swiss Army Knife Hands, dodge little zombie dogs a la Resident Evil, and plenty of other hilarious spoofs. Though the usual psychedelic aftereffects of Joe’s VFX powers are missing, the attack animations still look smooth and steady. Enemies still fall apart when you punch them, the levels are lively, and Joe can still taunt with the best of them. While the majority of the plot dialogue has been cut out, the characters’ voices and theme music are present and accounted for. Indeed, it is truly the portable Joe.
In the end, Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble is a mixed bag of quality, forcing you to be the judge of its overall appeal. It has the classic gameplay formula of the console Viewtiful Joe games. It has all the characters you love, and a few new ones to keep you interested. Being able to thrash baddies on a handheld is gratifying experience. But Joe’s new abilities and the use of the Touch Screen make this game feel a little bit offbeat. If you don’t mind the tedious puzzles and lack of difficulty, this might be something worthwhile. It’s not that it’s a bad game; it’s just marred by a few nasty factors that take away from the overall experience. But despite its shortcomings, this game still stands tall as the first handheld version of the Viewtiful Joe series, and hopefully not the last.
Seven out of ten