Ever since the success of Super Meat Boy in 2010, gamers have been fascinated with masocore games. These highly difficult games are meant to frustrate the player, and while it may not seem fun at first, there is nothing more satisfying than finally finishing a level that seemed impossible a few tries ago. One of the more recent standouts in the genre is Michael Todd’s Electronic Super Joy.
Originally released on PC in 2013, the stylish platformer has finally made its way onto home consoles. The game immediately sets a ridiculous tone with its introductory text telling the player that they must get revenge on an evil wizard for stealing the protagonist’s butt. Sure, it’s juvenile, but it’s also a fun setup to a game that keeps getting more over-the-top as it progresses.
Gameplay is relatively simple for a platformer, with the player being able to run and jump. Sometimes the unnamed protagonist will be able to use a special ability, either a smash attack or a double jump, to overcome the difficult levels that are built around these skills. Most of the time, though, the platformer sticks to the basics, and it’s all the more satisfying for it.
Besides the stellar audiovisual presentation, the first thing players will notice while playing Electronic Super Joy is that the game is brutally difficult. The game world is built out of floating platforms, which means a bottomless pit is just one poor jump away, and the enemies are a constant threat to the player. It also doesn’t help that the protagonist is extremely fragile (which is expected from someone who is missing their gluteus maximus), as just one hit will end his life.
Electronic Super Joy requires perfection from the player from the get-go, and nothing is given to the player. Pixel perfect jumps are a regular occurrence, and players will have to bring their A-game in order to gain any progress. While the high difficulty could easily be off-putting to players, it ends up always being fair. Every death is due to a mistake of the player, and there is always something to be learned from each failed attempt.
What helps facilitate the feeling of wanting to give each level just one more try is that the game has plenty of checkpoints (aside from a few shorter levels that don’t have any). This sometimes turns the game into a series of challenges, and a puzzle of seeing if you can figure out how to survive a death room. Similar to VVVVVV there is always an interesting scenario presented to the player, and the only way to progress is by using a combination of skill and perseverance.
In addition to the main campaign that contains over 50 levels, there are even more stages to check out. These include 5 new console-specific levels, and side-story where players are sent to Micro-Hell to battle Micro-Satan because he farted on your dog. Did I mention that Electronic Super Joy continually gets more and more absurd? Because it does, and it’s wonderful to see the utter ridiculousness unfold.
An additional DLC campaign, titled ‘Hot Sticky Mess’, is also coming to the game. This DLC was also released on Steam after the game launched, so it’s a bit disappointing to see an old DLC pack being sold again. However, Electronic Super Joy is one game that is packed with content, so you can’t say that you’re not getting your money’s worth.
What really takes the difficult platformer to the next level is the combination of a fantastic electronic soundtrack by artist enV, and gorgeous visuals. All of the foreground objects in the game are black, but they stand out well due to the game’s bright backgrounds. It’s a great contrast that lets you know what you can interact with, and what enemies you want to avoid. Not only is it extremely stylish, it’s functional.
Completionists will be glad to know that Electronic Super Joy is packed with optional objectives to achieve. These include tasks such as finding all the stars tucked away in near-impossible to reach places, and beating every level without dying. There are also two optional game modes: Infinite Love, and No-Checkpoint. While the latter mode is self-explanatory, Infinite Love finds the player going through levels in a random order until they die once. It turns the platformer into a high-score challenge, and is a fun addition.
Few games completely nail being a difficult game as well as Electronic Super Joy does. While players will undoubtedly get frustrated, their desire to give each level one more go will outweigh any annoyance. Not only has Michael Todd developed a game that will test any gamer’s mettle from both a reflex and mental standpoint, he’s made a game that is amazingly satisfying.
A Xbox One copy of Electronic Super Joy was provided by the publisher. To learn more about our score, read our review policy.