Though the original Joe Danger saw its share of healthy sales and glowing reviews back in the summer of 2010, I don’t think Hello Games’ debut received the following it deserved. Falling in line with other popular downloadable titles like Geometry Wars and Super Meat Boy, the original Danger offered bite-sized levels with multiple goals that required a delicate mix of patience and skill to complete. Where Danger differed from these twitch-style games, though, could be found in its complex controls, which gave players a remarkable amount of management over Joe’s aerial acrobatics at the risk of overloading their brains with the demands of six different buttons. With the sequel, Hello Games could have broadened the appeal of Joe Danger by simplifying their control setup into something a little less touchy and technical, but thankfully, they’ve held fast to Joe’s original game play by requiring the same amount of meticulous multi-tasking from players, all in settings wildly different than the racing-related backdrops of the original.

Joe Danger 2: The Movie feels like a meaty expansion of the first game — and that’s not a backhanded compliment. Like the original, Danger 2 tasks the player with keeping themselves alive on a two-dimensional (well, 2.5-D if you want to split hairs) race track while achieving one of several objectives, like collecting all the stars in a level, picking up a sequence of letters that spell out “DANGER,” or successfully executing a string of combos all the way to the finish line. Not an easy task, since the slightest collision or botched landing will send you back to the starting line, or, in the case of longer courses, the last checkpoint. Since most of the stages require nothing short of perfection, Danger 2 lets you restart any track instantly with the push of a button, eliminating the pointless tedium of having to finish a level regardless of how many objectives you’ve missed. Like the original, Danger 2 taps into the dark, perfectionist drive of any gamer’s personality, making the 25th attempt at a level just as harrowing as the first.

Instead of the stunt show framing device from the first game, Danger 2 drops Joe into the world of Hollywood, with each set of levels acting as a series of film scenes requiring plenty of diverse action. And to be honest, though some of Joe’s vehicles differ greatly in appearance from his trusty motorcycle, these wildly different modes of transportation (like mine carts and snowmobiles) control exactly the same. The only deviations from the game’s standard action comes in the form of Joe’s new jetpack, which is just as finicky as you’d expect, and a unicycle, which adds the challenge of constantly maintaining balance. And while the sequel’s changes may appear to be mostly cosmetic, the various genres at play give each “movie” a distinct look and feel; you’ll be escaping from deadly boulders in one level, and taking out an armored car in the next. Danger 2′s cimematic setting also adds a bit of flair to some of the original’s objectives by dressing them up in over-the-top Hollywood clichés; instead of landing on bullseyes and beating other racers to the finish line, Joe 2 has our hero disarming nuclear bombs and launching newspapers at rival racers in an attempt to take them down.

If Joe Danger 2′s focus on precision isn’t explicit enough, the game also offers a series of “deleted scenes”: uber-tough tracks designed to help player perfectly train specific skills. If you’re still wanting for challenge, though, the Danger 2′s track editor allows for the most devious of designs with elements straight from the campaign — and unlike Excitebike, you can save these tracks, and share them with your friends. Really, the only thing lacking in Danger 2 is online co-op, though Hello Games came up with a solution to give Danger 2 a healthy sense of competition; little beams of light with gamer tags attached cruise alongside you during each level, giving you plenty of human-based records to beat, and the end of each course sums up how well you’ve done relative to the rest of Joe’s players. Outside of providing more vehicles that control differently than Joe’s standard bike, it’s hard to ask much more from Hello Games with this sequel; and, just like their debut, Joe Danger 2 shines with an impeccable amount of polish. Blockbuster season (and Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade) might be over, but the spirit of dumb, over-the-top action lives on with Joe Danger 2′s goofball, Bruckheimery gusto.

By Bob Mackey