From the very first moment you load Joe Danger up, it's hard to restrain a ridiculous grin. The hero's motorcycle antics are expertly refined and relentlessly joyful.
Trials HD is the obvious comparison, but the core of Joe Danger couldn't be more different. In contrast to the demands of RedLynx's stunt runs, the bar for enjoyment here is set remarkably low. Using the left stick to tilt your bike, it's easy enough to get to the end of each stage.
The magic comes in all the extra elements to master: stunts charge up your boost, low obstacles need to be ducked under and racing opponents need a Road Rash wallop. It's tame enough to enjoy on a lazy afternoon, but start mentally juggling all of the aspects and it quickly gets tricky.
Speed runs, stunts and combo multipliers are just a few of the factors you'll be bearing in mind - with special rewards available to those who perfect some levels. Nail each of the award criteria in one attempt and you'll sometimes be able to earn a Pro Medal, unlocking a new character or avatar award.
While the original only launched on PlayStation 3, this Special Edition is an Xbox 360 exclusive. The extras make it more than worth the wait, including a bunch of new unlockables, massively decreased load times and 50 brand-new levels to try. Contained in a blueprint-style world called 'The Lab', these are substantially different from the main game, dropping lengthy tracks in favour of shorter but more difficult challenges.
It's not uncommon to see indie developers crank out games this charming, but the execution and quality is genuinely astounding. There's a perfectionist streak running right through the game, seen everywhere from the perfectly-pitched difficulty curve to the wonderful character design. Chaining together stunts reminds us of the best aspects of Tony Hawk, triggering an addictive urge to keep reloading the same level until you've nailed the perfect run.
The endgame of Joe Danger isn't easy, but it's hard to get frustrated by something so lovely. Split-screen multiplayer and a neat level creator are icing on the cake, but it's already sweet enough to trigger diabetes. Charm and charisma will only get you so far, but Joe Danger's style is matched and exceeded by its substance. Brilliantly charming and consistently entertaining, it's a true XBLA classic.
Perfectly designed and brilliantly executed
- Timeless retro-style challenge
- Relentlessly joyful
- Charming design
- Nippy loading and instant restarts
- Special Edition has loads of new stuff