And when we say old-school we mean old-school - both in gameplay and difficulty. Viewtiful Joe 2 is a side-scrolling 2D beat-em-up/platformer, something you barely see in today's 3D gaming world. And remember the old days when games would be fiendlishly tough to master? Where you needed split second reflexes, dogged persistence and the patience of a saint to win (plus access to an endless supply of 20c coins)? That's Viewtiful Joe 2 for you.
Interestingly, however, Viewtiful Joe 2, like its predecessor, is one of the best looking games you'll see on the PlayStation. Sure it's a 2D scroller, but its excellent use of cell-shaded graphics (to make everything look like an interactive cartoon) and great character design makes it look unlike anything else out there.
Viewtiful Joe 2 continues the movie-based theme of the first game, and once again sees our costumed superhero Joe take on the forces of evil in a series of film-inspired levels. Joe is joined this time by his girlfriend Silvia, with players being able to swap between the two at any point during the game.
Gameplay is essentially made up of linear levels where the characters have to defeat enemies and solve puzzles before progressing. As befitting action heroes, both Joe and Silvia have punch and kick attacks (with Silvia having a nifty laser pistol which allows her to stay farther away from harm), as well as special attacks which can be bought as the game progresses. The most interesting powers, however, are the various VFX powers both Joe and Silvia can use.
By far the handiest VFX power is the ability to slow down time, which Joe and Silvia can both use. By pressing down L1, everything on screen goes into slow motion, making it easier for you to dodge attacks and target hits on enemies. Joe can also speed up time, which multiplies his attacks, while Silvia can replay attacks three times. Silvia's replay is a double edged sword, however, as if you're unlucky enough to press the replay button while she's getting hit, the damage done to her will be tripled.
The VFX powers aren't just used for offense, though. There are numerous instances in the game where use of a specific VFX power (or a combination) is needed in order to solve a puzzle. You may need to slow down time, for example, to build pressure in a volcano so it explodes and allows you to pass into another area, or you may need to speed up time to increase the water level in a room so you can float a heavy block across.
It's these puzzles that will prove to be the most challenging aspect of Viewtiful Joe 2 for many gamers. The puzzles are often obscure, forcing you to think laterally and experiment with both characters before a solution appears. Even then, split second timing and reflexes are needed to be able to pull the whole thing off. You'll be pulling your hair out at some of the particularly tough sections, but there's nothing like the feeling of satisfaction (or is it relief?) when you finally get past.
Despite its good points, Viewtiful Joe's old-school approach and difficulty may alienate it from those used to the easier games of today. It'll knock you around for sure, but for those willing to persevere, Viewtiful Joe 2 is one of the most innovative game experiences out there.
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