360 XBLA Review - Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley

11th October 2010 – Once upon a time, there was a development company called Twisted Pixel. They created some pretty popular games like `Splosion Man and Maw, and so thought they were good enough to create another game, about themselves. They were wrong. Digging deep into some obscure highschool memories they pulled “Captain Smiley” out of thin air and, together with some weird FMV footage of themselves dressed as scientists, created a game that fails before it even begins. Literally. Find out what happens to the smiling Captain after this...



The day Captain Smiley and Star (the trash talking gold star on Captains chest), let themselves be employed by development company Twisted Pixel, was the day that history repeated itself and the Captain found himself dropped to the curb, unemployed and without a comic to exist in.


“I know!” said Twisted Pixel one day. “Let's completely stuff our fan base by creating the most asinine character we can imagine based on some doodlings we did in highschool” (I kid you not). “Rather than speaking out of his ass, lets stick a giant gold star on his chest that does all the perving, swearing and mouthing off for him”; high fives all round.


Poor Captain Smiley didn't have a hope in the world and worse of all after the first few introduction levels nobody liked him enough to keep reading; so he was out of a job and looking for any comic that would take him.


“Dude, you can totally tell he is lame because the game pans out to real-life footage of some kid reading the comic and then he kicks it and buries in the sand, so it must be real. Captain Smiley is a real comic in the real world, See there’s a dude on the toilet with his jocks down about to use it to wipe his bum” conceived Twisted Pixel.


The Captain and Star had other problems though. His arch enemy formally known as 'Brad' had moved into his Twisted Pixel Base along with 'Brads Babes'. Brad who flew around in his Bradcopter and started every explanation with Brad was not happy that Captain Smiley had grounded him and left him unemployed as well.


“I might be an 80s douche bag rip-off but at least this base is sweet. I have a large collection of all your music recordings, parody songs by Twisted Pixel, videos on Twisted Pixel and 3D models to check out, plus I can upgrade all my skills with money” mused Captain Smiley. “ Too bad the gameplay is so boring” replied Brad.

Worst comic ever

In an attempt to redeem himself in the public eye and to appease the Twisted Pixel overloads who appeared as themselves through live footage on a computer screen, Captain and Star agreed to enter four very cliché and overused stereotyped comics: Animae (Manga), 'Silver Age' comics, Contemporary Pop and Fantasy; each divided over three comic volumes. Unfortunately, Twisted Pixel must have forgotten that they were developing for a console with a controller because the control/ scheme for attacking was completely backwards. Captain Smiley remembered the old arcades from back when he was popular. He remembered “on rail” shooters where movement was automatic and all you had to do was point and shoot.


“I know!” exclaimed Twisted Pixel. “Lets do that, except not and make the player hold down shoot, but not actually shoot instead just aim with a stream of bullets but at the same time also have to jump and avoid obstacles”


Captain Smiley had a hell of the time the first few chapters. Not only could he not shoot, instead he just held down right trigger and moved up and down, jumping but also avoiding enemies while a stream of bullets destroyed them. To make matters worse the controls changed, and some times the shooting would become melee fighting and the side scrolling would become 3rd person driving or falling.


“This is bloody confusing. There are too many enemies and plus the achievement says I am supposed to do this without getting hit, so why am I shooting when I should just be speed running the whole level avoiding danger, On top of which can't you make moving automatic so I can concentrate of moving the slow reticle onto enemies in time!” “This would be so much more accurate on a computer” Declared the Captain. 


Twisted Pixel didn't care though, because no one liked Captain Smiley, even himself and every time he died, which was a lot he would say things like “ You're a looooseeer”.


By this point Captain Smiley and Star didn't even care that they got sweet new costumes for each comic or that each one was represented in different art styles. “Because Manga is “cool” but totally black and white and hand drawn on paper, let's just reuse our 3D models but make them all white with horrible black cell-shading” decided Twisted Pixel.


So instead of actually, developing the different art styles differently like in Scott Pilgram or Shank which actually created 2D art on purpose, Twisted Pixel went about making a level or three that were COMPLETLEY white, in 3D with horrible black cell-shading and low polygons.


“Don't forget all the females must have really big boobs, so I can comment on them and Brad can make macho jokes about Brads' Babes” joked Star. At this point, Captain Smiley had nothing left to say. The environments were a mashup of driving, on rail shooting and platforming, None of them done particularly well. Twisted Pixel used a picture of his face for health and every few seconds his annoying assistant would abuse him:


“Captain you have less than 75% Health. What the hell are you doing?” she yelled “... “less than 50% health, try harder” Even his own game hated him.


Some amusement was found with the bosses, that resembled Brad in some way but were also unique to their environment. Captain Smiley had to admit that some of the comic transitions and speech bubbles when he spoke were neat, it's just a shame that this wasn't his comic and instead someone else’s. Twisted Pixel seemed to remind him of that every chance they got:


“If the Captain wants to upgrade he's going to need money. So lets also add challenge levels to the game on top of missions, except they are exactly the same as the missions but with a timer” “Oh, and he has to play them over and over and over if he wants to make enough money to unlock all the sweet videos of us, and music about us and artwork that we did” Schemed Twisted Pixel. Sucks to be you Captain Smiley.



Too bad that 'cowabunga' was trademarked by the Ninja Turtles, because Captain Smiley really could have used some snappy one liners against Brad. Luckily he had Star to back him up:


“I'm an angry sidekick who hates you and hates Twisted Pixel. I like women but I have no respect for them and instead I'm going to bag you out on the poor job you are doing at being alive” commented Star.


“... Less than 25% health; Why are you sucking so much today” came that reply over the radio. It didn't help that Captain Smiley actually did suck, quite a bit, despite his rippling muscle tone and round yellow head.


“ I know!” Interrupted Twisted Pixel “Lets have a slew of unlockables like live action video of our staff and voice actors saying how much they like working for us”.


Despite their best efforts, Twisted Pixel could only manage to find videos and audio of their apparently famous staff, that no one had heard of- saying how much they hated working for Twisted Pixel and how poorly conceived captain Smiley was. Some of the videos were just random samples of peoples heads or in jokes that no one would ever get. Clearly Twisted Pixel was full of themselves.


Fortunately for the Captain and Star it was all these un-lockables of art and movies and models that may yet redeem his sorry ass from extinction.


“Does anyone have $10.00?” Yelled Smiley.


Apparently he had found the two arcade machines of 'Splosion Man and Maw, in his base. Sadly they weren’t free just cross promotion to buy the full versions from Xbox Live Arcade.


“Well at least the Avatar awards are free” he lamented.


Captain Smiley couldn't complain at the 1200MSP price point, but he thought it was a bit much considering all the other quality arcade titles this season. It dawned on him that maybe working with Twisted Pixel had sold him out, for a few hours of lame jokes and some horribly repeating gameplay.



Despite trying to act like a cross between a giant blue condom, Duke Nukem and Matt Hazard, Captain Smiley couldn't shake the feeling that Twisted Pixel had hit and miss with all their good intentions.


“The Simpsons Game was better than this” snarled Star. He wasn't wrong. So many ideas of smashing together art styles and genres and comic book heroes had been and gone before them and the Captain knew it.


“We don't care” tweeted Twisted Pixel “We already convinced everyone to pay for it before they play it, and on top of that we made it, so it must be awesome. We are in it and it's all about us, so you know it's good.”


The score says otherwise, and Captain Smiley despite his usually good natured humour had to agree.





+ Some of the bosses and live action sequences don't completely humiliate Twisted Pixel

+ Brad and Brads' Babes

+ A large number of Twisted Pixel unlockables



- Half the jokes are Twisted Pixel in jokes

- Gameplay is almost unplayable with a controller for only 3 buttons of action!

- Twisted Pixel kill Captain Smiley at the start and don't stop till the end


Reviewed and Written by Ian Crane