Review

Electronic Super Joy


Screenshot from Electronic Super Joy

Electronic Super Joy's first screen is a content warning. Users are told to watch out for "tons of crude language," "pixelated violence and murder," "sexual content," and "blasphemy."

Huh? "I must've launched the wrong game," I thought to myself as I exited back to the Switch's home menu, double-checked that I wasn't in fact opening a Senran Kagura game, and tried again.

I hadn't launched the wrong game, but now I was wondering how such a minimalistic 2D side-scroller could feature all of the above. And why?

Upon delving into the game's main campaign, I immediately drew comparison with Terry Cavanagh's indie darling VVVVVV: a sub-8-bit art style with an astonishing soundtrack threw me right back to 2010, meanwhile a single-hue background pulsed away to the beat of an intense electronic dance track. It's a trippy affair all-round, and for this reason I'd have to say that the game is very well-suited to handheld play on the Switch. Aside from the obvious reasons - convenience and portability - the smaller screen condenses the action and makes it a lot more palatable, however the art style looks impeccable on a big TV. The presentation, then, is spot on.

The gameplay, in a traditional fashion, starts relatively simply. You hold the right directional button to run, hit A to jump and B to do the equivalent of Mario's ground pound (hereby known as the Smash.) You quickly approach levels which auto-scroll, introduce new obstacles and eventually new physics. However, the first low gravity level grounded my progress to a halt as my instinct for how far you can jump was rendered completely useless, and it felt like I had to re-learn to play the game again.

The same goes for abilities. As a relatable example, BIT.TRIP RUNNER gradually introduces more and more mechanics for you to play with as you progress through its worlds. Electronic Super Joy does the opposite. The first ability you unlock is the double jump, but while it's in use you lose access to the Smash ability. It hangs around for a handful of levels, and then it's taken away from you just as quickly. The game lacks any nuance as a result, and ultimately falls short of the high benchmark set by many of its contemporaries.

That's not to say it doesn't have its moments. There'll be times when you're punching the air with joy when you surpass a particularly tricky section. When it's working, Electronic Super Joy is a solid platforming adventure that will entertain and reward you for your patience with some great levels and an even better soundtrack. But then other times it'll have you wanting to launch a Joy-Con through the air. There's more good levels than bad, but when I think back to my time with the game, I probably spent longer on the handful of poor levels than the good ones, due to their frustrating reliance on trial-and-error. Thankfully, checkpoints are frequent enough that I was able to persevere.

One early level features a couple of sprites which are yelling advice: "don't waste time - smash those missiles." Okay, no problem! The next mission also featured missiles, and I was again trying to smash them all - as the game suggested I do mere minutes earlier - only to eventually realise that smashing this level's missiles is futile and you'll need to outrun them to make the exit without being blown to smithereens.

In what seems to be a bid for relevance and attention, the game also shoehorns in the aforementioned "crude language" and "sexual content." That's to say that the NPCs swear enough to turn the air blue, and ... for some inexplicable reason, the game plays one of a handful of "sexual" sound clips when your player respawns or hits a checkpoint. It's all a bit over the top, and quite frankly cuts out a big chunk of its audience. There is a PG Mode, so you could hand this game over to perhaps a younger sibling and challenge them to beat your best times. It just begs the question of why they're in there at all! There's no context and they add nothing to the experience. Thanks to the surreal soundtrack and these lovely sound effects, my neighbours probably think I've spent the past few evenings watching a rave-based porno.

Electronic Super Joy is simply too little too late to make it a worthwhile purchase on Nintendo Switch - especially when you consider its higher price tag than even its Wii U counterpart. It does include a few extra level packs, but It's ultimately bettered by games which came almost a decade before it, so it's a hard recommendation unless you have the patience of a saint and absolutely adore the genre.

5 / 10