Review by Showtime1080

"Good style and good gameplay"

Get funky. Jet Grind Radio provides a fresh game with plenty of style. How can a group of kids retaliate against a gang who is spray painting their logo all over the city? Simple! Get a radio DJ to assemble radioactive roller blades, acquire hundreds of spray paint, and paint a new logo on top of their logo. Nevermind police. They can't reach the gamer if he's hundreds of feet in the air. A game where graffiti is the only weapon, players will find enjoyment claming territory, listening to good music, and playing in the colorful atmosphere.

Cel shading thrusts vibrant colors off the screen. The think lines that outline every character and object draw a comparison to a comic book. In general, comic books don't rely on long passages to convey the story, words pop-out with urgency towards the reader, designed to shock and electrify. In this same aspect, Jet Grind Radio's visual splendor shocks gamers. The visuals allow the gamer a unique glimpse into a world of mayhem that deserves the cartoon-y style. Jet Grind Radio's levels are creative in structure, loosely based on downtown Tokyo. Most areas have high buildings, plenty of rails, plenty of people, and various city structures, which gives an impression of a bustling city. Cel shading exaggerates the modeling to a surreal look though; the levels look life-like but plays as if the gamer is in dream. Somebody from Jet Grind Radio's staff must have taken art classes from Pablo Picasso himself due to the abstract, but recognizable colors. Also, cel shading creates a fluid playing motion because the colors lack complicated textures or many polygons, making the framerate high and steady. In Jet Grind Radio, the funky music along with the funky graphics, provides gamers with a disco atmosphere that never waivers; and with the smooth animations and clear gameplay, the sense of motion raises it to a smooth experience resembling liquid inside a lava lamp.

The mayhem of graffiti drawing, which is wild itself, deserves said crazy scheme. How amazing that the graffiti doesn't stand out from the overall atmosphere? They look as odd and feral as they do in real life, but they become insignia to the rebellious nature of the skaters, plastered onto to each wall as if they belong on the wall. Jet Grind Radio goes a step further and includes a custom graffiti kit allowing the gamer to create whatever they fancy. It's a nice touch. Just like the haphazard construction of the graffiti, character models are odd shapes with sharp blocky corners, seemingly cut from a comic strip then filled in to create a 3d effect. The first enemy gang present themselves like a horde of menotaurs with round, fat human faces. They are humans, but they look so obese, their dancing movements cause healthy laughter---their attempt at dancing looks like a pack of pigs wearing jackets, standing on their hind legs, twirling around and clapping their hooves. The last level features an entity that has eyes, lips, and a nose but looks nothing more than a thick, juicy brain.

The skating engine is nearly flawless. The fundamentals in Jet Grind Radio showcase skating movements that fully communicate the physical exertion. When skating, each leg pushes the body forward using a forward leg thrust to gain momentum, then, once the body is rolling, it's a matter of balance. Jet Grind Radio nails the weight of the effort required as the character will squat, bend his arms and powerfully thrash his arms and legs to gain speed, displayed onscreen with a lightning bolt emanating from the roller blades. In addition, turning reacts with a wide, loopy, loose movement making it clean and responsive without being too taut. Gamers will roll around nonchalantly just to experience the fluid, light-ness of the engine. Since skating is the essence of the game a proper system needs to exist to maintain a high fun factor. While skating performs nicely, Jet Grind Radio takes extreme liberty, possibly for the enjoyment of players, in jumping. A button press executes a gigantic leap, which coupled with a ramp or rail can generate massive amounts of air. Soaring through the air jumping from rail to rail allows the gamer to perform incredible air feats, similar to an acrobat in a circus doing high-flying aeronautical tricks on a trapeze. All this is possible amid the well-placed high buildings and tall structures. Right off the bat, the 1st level has two graffiti spots that are situated well above ground, only accessible by an acrobatic jump off a ramp, located inside a truck bed. Even higher are two long rails forming an overpass from street that can be grinded for a while. Just as important, but even more fun, grinding (jumping on a rail and sliding on the skates wheels) on long, winding rails whisks the character along a fantastic ride that generates great speed. Plus, the rails have a forgiving detection meter so that awful feeling of trying to “catch” a grind is nonexistent---if you're anywhere near a rail, the character will automatically grind.

The excellent skating fundamentals tie-in with a game where characters do nothing more than dance, skate and tag graffiti. The objective of Jet Grind Radio is to establish the gang's turf by out graffiting (or occasionally out-racing) the rival's gang's graffiti; basically spraying over the enemies logo with the character's. To spray the larger graffiti, various combos are displayed onscreen that need to be executed quickly--- the faster, the more points. Of course, there are detractors pissed off about the graffiti, namely other skating gangs who compete for the same graffiti spot the gamer is seeking, a chief of police who chases the character down firing bullets from his magnum, but the main opponent are suffocating police squads who fire off everything from smoke grenades to rockets. Aggressive, violent, and suppressive, the police chase and pummel until the character's health suffers and valuable spray cans drop if the gamer strays within a few feet. They're so relentless, they'll often grab the back of the character, not letting go unless the character jumps or turbos away. The enemies bring a surprising element to the funky game, the tension that arises performing a complicated combo (counter-clockwise circle, clockwise circle, half circle, up, down, clockwise full circle), knowing that an army of police are gunning after you is worrisome to the say the least. But, the single greatest annoyance is the mean, sadistic timing system. It is absolutely inexcusable for such a short timer to exist to complete each level. Why must Jet Grind Radio force gamers to spend forever searching for the last graffiti spot only to have the timer run out? The levels are vast and graffiti spots are strewn in many places. Although some are obvious to see, others will have the player wandering around the levels, probing every nook and cranny, seeking that last graffiti (all while dodging the police), only to have the time run out. Without warning! The game will suddenly cut to a black screen showing the character's “failed mission” dance without any prior clue time is running out. The sudden shock will cause gamers to scratch their head. Still, the skating mechanics and the enjoyable ability to fly on skates overrides the problems.

Of course, the title is named Jet Grind Radio, a very apt name for a title with an impressive list of musical compositions. The songs are superb and most are fast paced and emit huge amounts of bass. Matching the overall style, the songs are wild too, with quirky choruses and chants, while some unusual beat patterns drone in the background. Spanish music won't excite too many people; nevertheless one particular song mixes Spanish conga drums with a persistent beautiful piano melody that forms a jaw dropping collection of sound. Professor K, the head DJ who runs radio station in Jet Grind Radio, deserves originality credit for a 70's police squad guitar work fused with a “Boom Boom, Bap Bap” drum sample that will make gamers bob their head. Surprisingly, the music is very well done, and not clichéd at all.

Get funky. Overall, the game succeeds in providing a truly fun innovative game. The game has Japanese culture spewing from every orifice, evident by numerous Japanese letters populating each city, little Japanese quips when bumping a pedestrian, even the chief of police looks like an old 70's Japanese movie star. Whatever the case, its obvious they know how to party because Jet Grind Radio will entice the gamer to delve deep into the mayhem of graffiti while handily working the great skating engine. Add these to the music good enough to have gamers drop the controllers and dance, equals one funky, fun game. If only Smilebit had tweaked the timer a tad, or eased up the jerky camera a smidgen, the game would be the perfect balance of strong skating gameplay and strong ambiance. A fun ride, anyway.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/21/04

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