Words About Video Games

What the hell is Jazzpunk?

When Nina saw me playing Jazzpunk, I was racing a gravyboat around a gravy river. "What is this?" she asked. The only possible response was, "I'm not sure."

Jazzpunk is the video games equivalent of the surreal animation experiments of indie filmmakers in the 70s and 80s. Beginning ostensibly as a spy thriller with a comedic bent, the game free associates its way through countless gags and mini-games until it swallows itself roughly two hours later.

All of that to say, my gravyboat race made certain sort of sense from the game's perspective, but to explain it to someone who came in midway was utterly impossible.

Jazzpunk's gags play out on all levels of the experience, from mostly visual jokes (none of the character models have free moving arms or hands, so to manipulate objects, they hold up cardboard cutouts of hands--don't ask how they hold the cardboard cutouts) to full-on mini games (Wedding Quake is the most fully realized, but I'm partial to the one where you find a broken down car and click on the smoking hood, only to be taken to a mini-game to smash the car as quickly as possible.) Each mission area is rife with secret gags to uncover, many of them serving no purpose whatsoever.

The end result is feeling of painstakingly crafted anarchy, that draws you in gradually until you're looking for a spit on which to roast a mechanical pig, and you're enjoying the ride too much to step off.