Beating you over your head.
Since the release of Super Meat Boy, the model for the sadistically-hard platformer archetype has gained more and more of a following. It’s frustrating, nail-biting and we just can’t get enough of it. With this is mind, we decided to throw caution to the wind and try out Electronic Super Joy. My oh my, just what on Earth were we thinking?
It would be best to describe Electronic Super Joy as something of a fusion; it blends silhouetted sprites and foregrounds against bright backgrounds, not unlike the legendary Limbo, while the twitchy “get-to-the-exit-quickly” gameplay of Super Meat Boy is present and accounted for. Graphics are deliberately pixelated, giving the whole affair an almost 8-bit look, albeit extremely bright. Of particular note is the soundtrack: thumping, upbeat rave music blasts players while complimenting the frantic pace. It’s obviously not everybody’s cup of tea, especially in a gaming culture that’s deeply embedded in a love for all things metal, but it all fits together here seamlessly. It does tend to get a bit repetitive after a while though, so you might be reaching for the volume knob before long. If however you find yourself stomping your foot to the beats, you’ll be pleased to know that the soundtrack is available as a standalone purchase, and would be a welcome addition among any EDM collection.
Extended Club Mix
The club theme is featured throughout. The bright lights and colours of the backgrounds give the impression of strobe lights and mirror balls. Unfortunately, staring at them for extended periods can burn your eyes and tire them out. As you’re slowly starting to see, it’s all an experience that’s best taken one beat at a time. Seriously, this one even comes with a seizure warning and would put Pokémon’s to shame. Epileptics would be wise to give this one a miss.
I won’t sugar-coat the truth: you’re gonna die very, very, very often in this game. It’s as if every platformer cliché was pulled out for this one. We’re talkin’ screen auto-scrolling, perfectly-timed jumps, badly-placed enemies… it’s all here and employed in the most annoying way possible. For all the nasty difficulty, it never really feels cheap or frustrating, as unlimited lives, quick respawning, fairly short levels, and liberal usage of checkpoints insure that it’s altogether tough-yet-fair. The stark art style’s simplicity helps to make objects and hazards stand out, and the function of new gimmicks – thankfully, a recurrent theme which keeps things fresh and interesting – are self-evident, even if they require plenty of trial, error and pixel-precise movement to master.
Agony and XTC
In addition, there’s a healthy dose of humor. Characters make random remarks, assorted one-liners are spouted and even a crazy, rave-obsessed, UFO-flying version of the Pope makes an appearance (yes, you read that right). This title gleefully basks in non-sequiturs and invites players to just have some crazy fun and laugh at the absurdity. Even the story is an incoherent mess about “rescuing your butt” after the “Disco Wars” or some such nonsense. Yes, really.
There’s a lot to keep you amused for a good few hours, but just in case you can’t get enough of seeing your butt (ha), there’s a soundtrack-focused DLC pack of bonus content which adds a few new even tougher levels and some new bosses. Another DLC package called A Hot Sticky Mess is also available, featuring more levels and rave tunage of the distinctly brutal variety. Finally, you’re able to purchase the Groove City semi-sequel, which functions as more of a standalone expansion but maintains everything that made the original game so memorable. There’s a lot of material to work with here, and if you’re a speedrunner who enjoys insanely hard platforming, you’ll find a lot to love in Electronic Super Joy‘s club house.
Electronic Super Joy is a blast to play, although it’s best enjoyed in limited doses. The retina-burning colours, the pounding rave music and the relentless difficulty all conspire to work on your nerves, but you’ll have had a lot of goofy fun before you eventually ragequit. It’s both an ideal “coffee break” game and a welcome addition to any platformer aficionado’s library. Snag the game on Steam here. Have a gander at the trailer above, but, er… make sure your volume isn’t too high when you play it, and that there aren’t young kids or conservatives about. Otherwise, get ready to unleash your inner raver. And let’s hope that we’ll see it on the Switch some day, because it’s the type of game that’ll be right at home there.
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), macOS, Linux, Nintendo Wii U, Playstation 4, PS Vita, Xbox One ; Publisher: Michael Todd Games,Yazar Media Group LLC ; Developer: Michael Todd Games ; Players: single-player ; Released: 23rd of August, 2013 (original game).
Full disclosure: This review is based on Steam keys for Electronic Super Joy, its DLC, and Electronic Super Joy: Groove City purchased by the reviewer.