Twisted Pixel has been a favorite of BrainLazy ever since Maw. Then 'Splosion Man showed us that they were not a one hit wonder. At PAX we got to see the latest game to come out of the studio, Comic Jumper, and it looks like their streak is still going strong. CEO Michael Wilford showed us a healthy slab of the first comic, and then took a minute to talk to us about what we can expect from the rest of the game. Let's see what we learned, aside from the fact that he is officially who I want to be when I grow up.
The first thing that strikes you about Comic Jumper is the trademark humor that Twisted Pixel has been ramping up with each of its games. Captain Smiley, our hero, and Star, his onboard sidekick, play on the superhero cliche perfectly. Immediately upon arriving on the scene he tries to fire off superhero platitudes to his busty female compatriot. The initial style is purposely generic, basically just a Twisted Pixel take on the standard superhero adventure. This will not be the case through the whole game, however. The purpose of the game, and reason for the name, is to jump from one comic to the next in attempts to regain respect and following for your own comic book before it fails. Each comic, and we've been told to expect four, has its own unique art style. The change is not a superficial one, either. As Captain Smiley shifts to each comic, his appearance will change completely. New rig, new model, new textures, new animations. Visually, each comic is intended to be distinctive and recognizable, so much so that real aficionados will be able to pick out influences from specific artists of the genre.
The gameplay in the demo is all over the map, in a good way. It begins as a standard beat 'em up. The tutorial comes as comic captions heroically proclaiming the controls. After some panel breaking transitions it moves to Gunstar Heroes-eque gunplay. When asked if it will have anything else in common with Gunstar Heroes, particularly co-op, Michael was coy. He didn't deny it, though, so fingers crossed. Then came some QTE and a boss fight. Everything looked solid and fairly polished, despite the fact we were told that this was just an early demo. Afterward, we were told that the already impressive list of game styles was just the beginning. There were other play mechanics left in just that comic, and each new comic would bring their own unique elements as well. On the topic of attacks aside from the fists, feet, and pistols akimbo that we saw demonstrated, we were told that other weapons were a function of the different comics as well. The more we hear, the more it seems like we will be getting not one game but four when this title finally releases. That's a lot of bang for your buck.
Speaking of bang for your buck, Michael assured us that they would be continuing with the tradition of rewarding players with avatar items and premium themes. Not only that, they were in talks with Microsoft about including a never before seen goodie. No promises were made, but already our minds are ablaze with the possibilities.
Twisted Pixel is notable in that this title will be their third major release and their third IP. This flies in the face of the standard business practice in modern gaming, which focuses mostly on milking a single franchise for as many sequels as possible before coming up with a new idea. Mr. Wilford says that he and his crew prefer the idea of making each new game a new IP, a policy he likens to that of Pixar. That said, sequels aren't out of the question, but it would have to be for a good reason. If a new story or new mechanic works best for previously established characters, then we may see them again, but until then they want to keep things fresh.
Comic Jumper is loosely scheduled for a 2010 release date, with the possiblity of a Summer of Arcade release not likely, but not ruled out.