REVIEW: Comic Jumper (Xbox 360)

Captain Smiley is in dire straights. His comic book is so terrible that his fans are literally ripping up issues and using the pages for toilet paper, and the poor Captain has been canceled. Luckily, the Twisted Pixel development team sees a golden opportunity in Smiley and rushes to his aid, developing technology that allows the Captain and his surly sidekick Star to jump into other comics as a sort of mercenary for hire. The hope is that if Captain Smiley makes enough guest appearances in other comics he can earn enough cash to relaunch his comic series and once again be at the top of the sales charts.

I'm not speaking metaphorically when I say Twisted Pixel gets involved here – the developers have literally written themselves into the game. Appearing in live-action segments and interacting with Captain Smiley and his crew at the hero's HQ, Twisted Pixel has absolutely nuked the fourth wall and created an awesome meta-commentary on both the comics world and game design. The funniest game I've ever played that didn't have the name Tim Schafer attached to it, Comic Jumper has clearly been created by a team who loves comic books and pop culture with a passion. I'm going to do my best to be vague on the story and gags, as Comic Jumper is an experience that will surprise you with belly laughs at every turn that deserve not to be spoiled.

Gamplay in Comic Jumper is clearly rooted in the 'run and gun' style of play popularized by classics of the past like the Sega Genesis classic Gunstar Heroes. Using the right analog stick, Captain Smiley can shoot in all eight directions at will, coupled with standard jump and slide moves to dodge incoming projectiles. Some sections switch to a Sin and Punishment style shooter, where you'll be controlling a visible targeting reticule on screen as Smiley automatically runs through the environment. Other sections will have you holstering your firearms for some good old fashioned fisticuffs, and defeating all enemies without getting hit will earn you a "Help Me". The "Help Me" is your room clearing "bomb" attack in which Smiley will summon the Twisted Pixel development team from outside the game world to punch, kick, and ultimately headbutt every enemy on the screen.

My only complaint is that the action can grow repetitive at times. You'll run into 4-5 different enemy types per world, but no matter what comic you're in they'll mostly all behave in the same way. Comic Jumper's difficulty is also firmly routed in old school game design, there were more than a few sections that had me cursing at the screen because the enemy placement seemed unfair. There is also no way for Captain Smiley to regain health, so sometimes it was easier just to let my hero die and restart from the last checkpoint instead of trying to soldier on through a level. However, the levels are so well presented and the writing so good that I had to keep going just to see what crazy situation the developers were going to throw at me next.

Captain Smiley's first crossover is into the world of Nanoc the Oblivator, a riff on Marvel's Conan series from the 70s. Nanoc has gone missing, leaving his kingdom to delve into chaos, so his favorite concubine hires Captain Smiley to find him. Combating pissed off chicken-throwing tribes people and hungry vultures, Captain Smiley ultimately discovers one of his villains, The Puttmaster, has also invaded the land in an attempt to turn it into the multiverse's largest mini-gold course. Seems Nanoc has sold out his land in exchange for a bounty of junk foods from the modern age, and has grown too fat to do anything about the Puttmaster's nefarious schemes.


Next, Smiley jumps into the Silver Age to help out Paper Lad and The Origami Kid, aka the Improbable Paper Pals. In this benday dotted landscape, the Comics Obscenity Commission rules the land, women belong in the kitchen, and bad racial stereotypes are commonplace. The story begins with the villainous Madam Rope committing a museum heist in the name of gender equality, escaping into the cosmos with a rare gemstone which will allow her to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all. Captain Smiley gives chase, blasting his way through Kirby inspired spacescapes and ultimately battling Madam Rope in her rolling-pin shaped space ship. From getting slapped with COC fines every time the foul-mouthed Star can't control his words, to poking fun at the backwards social behavior of this bygone era of comics, the world of the Silver Age never stops delivering on the laughs.

Finally, Smiley enters the world of Cutie Cutie Kid Cupids, a Shojo manga where instead of bullets, Captain Smiley shoots bubbles and hearts while fighting off the love-struck high school girls of Hent High (home of the Fighting Tentacles!). True to Japanese comics, the game world scrolls from right-to-left, cuteness abounds, and Captain Smiley can't understand any of it. The black-and-white world captures the art style of manga darn near perfectly, and the jokes revolve around all the weirdness that Japanese comics have become famous for in the western world. As awesome as it is to look at however, the enemies and their projectiles can be difficult to see among all the action lines and zipatone effects of the artwork.

Money earned from your various adventures can be used to upgrade Captain Smiley's abilities or obtain a slew of bonus content. Ranging from production artwork, interview videos with the dev team, and the game's soundtrack, the bonus content forms a complete behind the scenes picture of the creation of Comic Jumper. While browsing through the bonus items, I learned that Comic Jumper is actually the first video game ever based on a mini-comic. Captain Smiley starred in a comic created by one of the Twisted Pixel developers that he made in middle school! You can unlock the full original mini-comic, and see the entire evolution of the character since 1993. Stuff like this warms my heart.

Clocking in at about seven hours to complete the main story, Comic Jumper offers plenty of bang for your buck. With brilliant writing and more pop culture jokes than you can shake a $3.99 floppy at, I never stopped laughing the entire time I was playing this game. And what little Comic Jumper may lack in the gameplay department, it more than makes up with a ton of style and substance. When Comic Jumper arrives this Wednesday, October 6th on Xbox Live Arcade, I can't recommend enough that you at least download the demo and revel in this game made with love for you, the comic reader.

Graphics: 4 Stars | Gameplay: 3.5 Stars | Overall: 4 Stars

Gameplay Statistics: Completed full game. First Full Playthrough: 7 hours. Earned 10/12 Achievements for a total of 170/200 gamer points. Unlocked all bonus items. A download code was provided by Twisted Pixel for review.


Josh Richardson is the resident iFanboy video game guru. He's always rambling about games and comics over on Twitter.


  1. I thought Splosion Man was a pretty rad game, and this sounds like it’s pretty cool.  I’ll definitely check it out on Wednesday.

  2. I cant explain the disappointment when I read it was 360 only. Boo!

    Maybe I should fix the damn piece of shit.

  3. I loved Splosion Man, so much fun and entertaining to play. This looks like another great game by the time, can’t wait to play it.

  4. Also don’t forget you get two bonus levels of Splosion man plus more avatar stuff. I can’t wait for this game.