Joe Danger, career stuntman, has certainly made a name for himself over the past few years. His charming motorbike feats on home consoles offered an approachable but challenging platforming experience that won the hearts of many gamers looking for something fresh. After two sterling entries, his managers at Hello Games have decided to move onto something new, but not before giving their beloved hero a send-off. Joe Danger Touch is his final hurrah, but several missteps prevent it from being a positive one.
From the outset, Hello Games replicate the same lovely presentation found on Touch’s console siblings. Every element, from the jaunty theme song to the colorful cast of costumed characters, makes a return. The world literally smiles at you as you’re riding through the colorful desert, and you can’t help but smile back. The game looks just as good, if not better than ever (depending on the age of your device), and it’ll run on any iOS device from 3GS upwards.
Hello Games have rebuilt Joe Danger from the ground up to compensate for the lack of dedicated controls on touchscreen devices. Joe now drives forward automatically, leaving the player to handle jumping, ducking, and item collection with simple taps and swipes. It’s an admirable attempt at capturing the same essence that made its console counterparts great, but while the pieces are all there, the constraints of the iOS platform never make it fit together as well as it should. As the difficulty ramps up, new mechanics are haphazardly stacked on top of one another. Inputs that used to accomplish one action are now responsible for 2-3, and it becomes increasingly difficult to tell whether swiping horizontally will perform a stunt or launch into a wheelie.
As Joe’s controls become more confusing, the rest of the game world follows suit. You’re expected to jab at bubbles, letters, stars, and the occasional flying spaceship while getting from point A to point B. If your finger happens to miss, the game will register it as a jump, often sending poor Evel Knievel into spikes or a shark tank. It’s not impossible to achieve the level of dexterity that Joe Danger expects from you, but on a platform that isn’t known for its precise inputs, it’s harder than it should be.
The controls might boil down to a matter of personal skill and preference, but it’s hard to defend Hello Games’ egregious use of in-app purchases. In order to stand a chance against other stuntmen vying for prime positions on the leaderboards, the player needs access to Golden Joe, whose combo multiplier easily dwarfs every other character in the game. The number of coins required to unlock Golden Joe is astronomical, and it would take an inordinate amount of time to collect them naturally. Alternatively, you can pay a whopping $40 (!) to unlock the coinage necessary. It feels downright dishonest to list Joe Danger Touch as a $3 game when such an integral aspect of the experience is locked behind a steep, “pay to win” barrier.
Joe Danger sadly ends his career like a typical American action star, starring in a final game after he’s long past his prime. The studio decided to squeeze his iconic abilities into a flashy new format that just doesn’t match well, and while dedicated fans and newcomers alike may recognize that something special was buried deep inside, the project never reaches its full potential. Joe Danger Touch will make a decent, nostalgia-tinged sum at the box office, but the faithful will be sent digging into their collections and reliving the glory days of a gaming hero.
Originally published on Press X or Die on January 21, 2013.