Just Give in to the Groove, You Know You Want It
Michael Todd Games’ Electronic Super Joy (2013) is unexpectedly one of the most relaxing hardcore platformers I’ve ever played. Design-wise, it initially presents itself as yet another hardcore platformer with both characters and stages being nothing else but simplistic, black and white pixel shapes with monochrome backgrounds, however, once booted up, the game starts to shine when the visual composition meets the soundtrack.
Before considering playing this title, please be aware of two things: The camera and the flickering lights. In World One – stage 12, Pope 2: Hyper–Pope, the screen shakes at the beginning of the level. As I died fairly often, I felt nauseous after a couple of tries because of that. I felt similar unrest in World Three – stage 3, I Blame Your Mother, wherein the camera suddenly tilts clockwise by 90° only to tilt back a couple of seconds later. Another potential concern might be seizures as bright, rapidly flickering lights are a leitmotif in every stage.
With that said, anyone who has ever played a classic 8-bit platformer, will quickly comprehend Electronic Super Joy’s mechanics, namely: Any enemy that touches the protagonist kills him and the only way he can defeat them is by stomping on their heads. Also akin to “ye olde games” are the controls; one button to jump (in some stages also used to double jump or to flap the arms to fly), a different one to stomp, and a third one to quickly respawn from the last checkpoint, in case things didn’t turn out the way they should. However, though this is all easy to understand, the gameplay itself requires both experience in the genre and patience to get through and were it not for the last button and the many checkpoints, I doubt I would have gotten as far as I did.
As I am not too experienced with these types of hardcore platformers myself, it took me around seven hours to get through the 45 stages of the main campaign (Classic Electronic Super Joy) and so far, I’ve only beaten three of the 15 A Hot Sticky Mess DLC levels, none of the five bonus maps, nor any of the nine Micro Hell stages. During this playthrough, I never felt that any of the deaths were unfair, due to the controls being very well-balanced out and responsive, so that getting through was just a matter of trial and error and being observant. To spice things up a little bit though, in many stages the camera does not follow the protagonist, but instead scrolls by itself. That means that I frequently found myself in situations wherein I either had to react quickly or was required to stay in an enemy infested area for longer than I’d like to. Another noteworthy addition to the game were the occasional shoot ‘em up segments where players had to avoid an onslaught of projectiles while navigating the stage. But through all of it, I had a good time, which can be largely attributed to the rest of the titles presentation.
What got me hooked on the game was its juvenile sense of humor. The main antagonists motivation, for example, is to steal everyone’s butts and whenever the character respawns at a checkpoint either a male or female voice roars “Oh Yeah” or “Oh Là Là” in a hilarious, yet highly sexual fashion that is sure to make you blush uncomfortably when you’re playing this in the living room while your family is over for a visit. But in case that these utterances are a bit too much or you just feel annoyed by them, they can easily be turned off in the options menu under “PG”. Fitting to the sexy “Oh Yeahs” and entire atmosphere, the stages are accompanied by a strong house and techno soundtrack. Many of the enemies are even in sync with the music, which makes beating them that much more enjoyable.
Electronic Super Joy’s PC port does everything right. The button layout can be fully customized and the game features full keyboard as well as controller support and the menu can easily be navigated with a mouse. The game’s framerate is also unlocked by default and runs at around 230 frames per second (fps) with frequent drops to around 100 on my old toaster – an old, 32-bit desktop PC running on Windows Vista Home Premium, an Intel Core 2 CPU, an Nvidia GeForce 9500 GT, and 3070 MB RAM. However, even weaker models, like the Asus Aspire E1-410 laptop, can play the game without problems and framerate can be locked to 30 or 60 fps in the options menu.
If you’re not prone to nausea or seizures and are a fan of difficult platformers, this game is definitely worth picking up. The music is great, there’s tons of achievements (I only have 3/37 for completing the main story) and great music. The game also features a speedrunning mode and a global leaderboard. So, core gamers can rejoice.
This game is a 9 Oh Là Làs out of 10
Where to Get
Available as digital download for PC, the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, and of course the Nintendo Wii U. The base game costs $7.99 USD or your local equivalent with additional content, such as the soundtrack costing extra.
All screenshots taken by me during my playthrough.
If you like this review, you can also check out some more like it on my Steam Curation group: