Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: 'Jazz: Trump's Journey' by Bulkypix

I'm not a huge fan of when things try too hard to be "cool."  I don't have an exact definition for what that means - it's one of those "you know it when you see it" scenarios - but for the most part I think it's when a product goes too far out of its way to appeal to the greatest number of people simply to become popular and doesn't have any sort of substance behind it.  I appreciate a certain amount of charm in my entertainment, things that do what they do for their own sake and aren't trying to be edgy or trendy and along the way lose sight of really accomplishing anything at all.  I think that's why Jazz: Trump's Journey by Bulkypix appeals to me so much.  It's imperfect, but there's something about it that will make you smile while you play, which is, of course, a good thing.

Trump's Journey follows the titular Trump, a jazz-playing up-and-comer in the early 1900s desperate to make it big.  (Note: The game purports to be based on Louis Armstrong.  Granted I only took an introductory jazz course in college but I don't remember anything resembling this happening in real life.  Not a deal breaker, but feel free to ignore that bit of story.)  You'll enjoy the basics of platforming - jumping, climbing ladders, bopping bad guys on the head, collecting music notes - all with your time-freezing trumpet.  Your trumpet is integral in puzzle solving and the whole mechanics work well enough.  Controls are basic movement and contextual action buttons that can be tricky to navigate between when you're trying to do more than one thing at once but for the most part get the job done.  Checkpoints are scattered across the fairly long levels; you'll respawn at the checkpoints if you die, but quitting the game will make you start a level over.  It's not a huge pain, but having to go throw cutscenes (as well done as they may be; see below) can get tiresome when there isn't a way to skip them.

The aesthetics of Trump's Journey are where it really shines.  The graphics look like a slick version of a Steamboat Willie-era cartoon, with stylized bodies and extremely expressional faces.  Backgrounds are detailed and varied and have a water color-esque vibe to them.  Music, obviously, plays a large part, and the jazz-inspired soundtrack is not only appealing on its own, but fits the game perfectly.  Cutscenes are done silent movie style, complete with intertitles and sketchy reel flickers.

Does Jazz: Trump's Journey have it's faults?  Absolutely.  The aforementioned control quirks, gameplay frustrations, and oddly mistranslated narration can sometimes pull you out of the game.  Overall, though, Trump's Journey will win you over with its charm and makes for a rewarding and fun experience.

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