Welcome to one of the most unique, peculiar and downright insane games you will come across for a long time. Describing Jazzpunk to the uninitiated is a task in itself. It's a big mish-mash of ideas thrown together in a blender, completely mixed up and presented to you, the player, on a large plate. Then the plate is smashed up with a hammer as liberal amounts of humour and comedy are battered into every corner of it.
That may be a fairly ridiculous way of explaining what is essentially a first-person comedy adventure game but Jazzpunk deserves a ridiculous introduction. It clearly doesn't take itself seriously and doesn't want you to either. It's hard to think of much else to compare it to, but if you imagine the stylings of Monty Python, Airplane! and James Bond thrown together then you might begin to form an idea of what to expect. Or not. The game really sets its own rules and then ignores them at every turn and the result is that this unique approach is both a benefit and a hindrance.
You play a character named Polyblank in an alternate reality Cold War. The espionage agency you work for sends you on missions with a variety of goals such as stealing a piece of technology or following a suspect. Successfully completing these missions quickly becomes a secondary goal as you realise that the game wants you to have more fun just exploring the world. Everywhere you look there is something to interact with and the result of that interaction is usually very funny, or very silly. It becomes easy to get distracted and serves as a means to expand the game’s very short length (between two and three hours if you don't rush through). The game is controlled from a first-person view much like any shooter but for the most part there is no action here. Rather you explore the environment, solve puzzles and interact with people and objects. It's a fast-paced game so there's little opportunity to get bored with this approach, plus you are free to take as much time as you want in each area.
As an example, your very first mission asks you to steal a piece of technology from the Russian Consulate. Your task is broken down into specific smaller goals, the first of which tells you to gain access inside the embassy but straightaway your attention is drawn by the crazy goings on around you as you make your way to the entrance. These range from reading a newspaper, noticing spies watching you from behind trees, blowing bubble gum in a stranger’s face (and causing his death) and wiping the food off somebody’s face.
As you may gather, any story aspects to the game are very thin but they are there. Story isn't really important here. You become familiar with a couple of characters across the missions, most notably your supervisor who assigns the missions to you. The personalities on display are as colourful as the environments, with every role being a decent caricature or send-up pushed to the extreme. Voice work is minimal but used to good effect, with regional accents really selling the comedy factor (a particular highlight being a Texas cowboy who is given some great dialogue delivered in an insane drawl).
The visual style is rather striking. Most environments and objects are rendered very simply with basic geometric shapes. This is particularly effective for the character models which appear as not much more than blocks vaguely reminiscent of a body with a head attached. The very basic look is augmented by having everything be absolutely bursting with colour and every area littered with a huge amount of objects. Jazzpunk cannot be described as having particularly good graphics, but the style carries them and makes the game instantly identifiable. Environments for each mission remain of a modest size with a decent amount of area to explore but nothing approaching open-world gaming levels.
The huge amount of comedy thrown at you means that you barely get a break from it. This ends up being a double-edged sword as you are just as likely to laugh a lot as you are to get tired of it. There comes a point where joke fatigue sets in and you just want to get on with the game, losing any desire to explore and to see what gag may be hidden around the next corner. It's not a particularly difficult game, but due to the zany nature a good few of the puzzles are a bit obscure. Your inventory is always very small meaning that you are rarely stuck as to what to do but we ran into a wall when needing to find objects in the environments, most notably trying to figure out what to do with a mechanical pig drew the experience to a screeching halt.
Minigames are also on offer and they mostly serve to expand the playtime and fill out the Steam achievements. These usually consist of pretty standard fare such as a finding hidden objects or destroying a certain amount of scenery within a time limit. They fit within the game’s world very well and have a creative flair to them, although they ultimately end up a bit unrewarding and have no bearing on the game’s plot or ending.
Jazzpunk isn't going to be everybody's cup of tea but it's guaranteed to make you laugh. If one joke doesn't work for you, the one that follows five seconds later probably will. Much of it will depend on your tolerance for silliness, yet it remains a short and sweet experience perfect for when you need to take a break and relax. The replay value is low, but it’s a nice distraction while it lasts.