It feels so wrong, yet it feels so right.
After I asked my mommy if I was allowed to play Electronic Super Joy: Groove City, and after she begrudgingly gave her 23-year-old son permission, I settled down with GamePad in hand to tackle Yazar Media Group’s M-rated platformer. With adult humor on par with Cards Against Humanity, Groove City is dicey, nasty and distasteful enough that I had to wash my innocent eyes with the Pope’s personal holy water. I just hope it was a different Pope than the dirty old man that helped guide my character to JoJo the giant robot stripper’s stolen laser-nipples.
Vulgarities aside, there are some tricky platforming elements buried beneath the game’s glitz and glamor. Groove City will tie you up and spank you silly — and there’s nothing you can do but call out for more, more, more. You have to expertly jump and maneuver onto narrow platforms smaller than your character. You have to avoid legions of homing missiles that never give up their pursuit. Often, you just have to leap willy-nilly and pray to the nasty Pope that you make it through whatever death trap you face.
Still, Groove City doesn’t always perform like I fantasized about. A few obstacles are simply unfair and the game’s silhouette art style at times hinders gameplay. The game’s finale couldn’t maintain the pleasure of the previous acts and, ultimately, Groove City finishes way too soon, making be long for another round.
An example of an unfair obstacle design came in the later half of the game. Between me and my goal was a long “belt” of energy spheres. The spheres would quickly zoom around the belt, and there were only small gaps between them. The trap was too long to jump over entirely; it took about three hops to cross, meaning I had to somehow land between two moving spheres and jump up again before one touched me. In addition, I had to avoid a series of homing missiles that relentlessly flew towards my head. About a hundred tries later, I finally made it across.
Normally, such an obstacle would completely ruin a game. Yet Electronic Super Joy: Groove City cleverly employs a checkpoint system that ensures you never have to replay large segments of the game; checkpoint flags are typically interspersed between every other obstacle. Therefore, dying frequently never feels like a punishment. You’ll normally try again right where you left off.
Speaking of dying, it’s — well, it’s really awkward. Every time you bite the dust and respawn, a man or woman moans in uncontrollable euphoria. Every death is marked with a deep-throated “Ooh la la!” or else a whimpering “Ooohhh yeah!” To put this in perspective, a tricky trap that kills me every few seconds would turn my Wii U into a symphony of erotic bliss. This is overlayed on top of upbeat club music that goes hand-in-hand with the robot stripper theme.
But frankly, the game looks and sounds fantastic. The music is endlessly repetitive, but I never really noticed. NPCs dance rhythmically to the beat of the music making the game feel alive and edgy. Groove City blasts your screen with a dichotomy of bright neon colors and black silhouettes and uses basic geometric shapes to make the levels easy to understand. When silhouettes overlap, however, things can get confusing.
It’s a fun look for a fun game, often upheld by fun level design. One of my favorite mechanics was the game’s collectible stars. Each star added to your point total, and they came in three varieties: white, black and rainbow. White and rainbow stars had no special properties, although the latter were hidden in hard-to-find locations and required skillful jumping to acquire. But the black stars — oh man. While worth many points, each black star would also send a homing missile after you that wouldn’t stop following until you died. They were valuable, yet dangerous, making you think twice before nabbing one.
All of this coalesced into one final level that really missed the mark for me. Instead of having to navigate through an area to reach a goal, you were tasked with staying in one location and avoiding thrown projectiles and missiles. It had a very different feel than the rest of the game and lacked the same bright neon colors. All the while, the plot was advancing through on-screen text during the action, but I couldn’t read and survive at the same time. Ultimately, I missed out on the story so that I could finish the game. The final level just wasn’t much fun.
For a game focused on jumping, however, you can do much worse than Electronic Super Joy: Groove City. It has a few gameplay flaws and there are only thirteen levels, but it is harder than the Pope’s scepter and raunchier than his mouth. Overall, its beauty really makes you want to be involved with it for a night. I say go for it, enjoy the game, and then feel guilty tomorrow.