Electronic Super Joy

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Michael Todd Games for PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2013.
Electronic Super Joy is an eyeball-bursting electronica-blasting sensory overload of a platformer that promises seizures, motion sickness, crude language, violence, murder, sexual content, and blasphemy. While the game certainly does deliver on some of those promises, none of it is to be taken too seriously. This is a lighthearted romp through a laserbeam cotton candy fantasy that offers quite a bit of challenge and some humor along the way.

The premise is as follows: You lost an arm in the Disco Wars of 1515. You lost an eye in the War of Rock ‘n Roll. You lost both legs defeating DJ Deadly Skillz. And you lost your ENTIRE butt to an Evil Wizard. This is the story of your Quest… to get revenge for your butt. Yep, the story is completely nonsensical, just tossed in to give you an idea of the irreverent zaniness that is to follow.

From the flashy pink title screen, you move on to the level selection interface, which features three worlds with 15 levels each, and a fourth world with a set four extremely challenging levels. All of these levels are locked, save the first, which introduces you to your basic moveset. Namely, you can move to the left and right and you have a 3x variable height jump, but you gain – and lose – new abilities throughout the experience.

Your first learned ability allows you to smash downward from a jump, sending yourself quickly to the ground with a flourish of light blasting upward in a column, accompanied a clapping sound. This allows you to defeat the shadowy enemies that block your path, crushing them into oblivion. While you retain this ability for much of the game, you won’t have it in every level.

Other levels offer the ability to double jump, and even the ability to fly. However, flight is more difficult than it sounds, as you can’t simply move freely around the environment; rather flying is done by holding the button down to move upward and letting off to fall. This is more akin to one-button flying games than it is to something like Joust, although there are certainly sequences where repeatedly tapping the button is needed for precision flight.

Gameplay changes from level to level, but there are a few basic rules in place. Firstly, there are platforms to jump on and bottomless pits beneath. Checkpoints appear in the form of flags, and these play some generally sexy noises when you cross them, such as a woman moaning “ohhh yeah”, or a guy’s deep voice saying “ooh la la…”. Checkpoints are fairly frequent, which means you won’t get sent back very far when you fail, but the challenge can get pretty high, which means you may find yourself replaying short sequences again and again.

The goal in most levels is to make it safely from the left to the right and reach the spinning portal of light at the end, jumping through it to be transported to the next level. Some levels feature forced scrolling, requiring that you remain fast on your feet, while others can be plodded through at your leisure. Some levels feature platforms that drop away beneath you, and some have doors that can only be opened by grabbing a key. Just when you think you know what’s coming next, the gameplay changes and new mechanics are introduced.

Sticky walls let you grab them and scooch upward slowly with repeated jumps. These are pretty easy to navigate when you are allowed to take your time, but they can be particularly challenging in forced scrolling levels, since you slide down them very slowly. Later you’ll have to perform advanced techniques such as sliding off the bottom of the wall and then double jumping up to the other side, ala They Bleed Pixels.

Slick floors not only make you slide around, but they also let you build up incredible speed, allowing you to cross huge gaps. You will sometimes need to build up speed and then jump onto another platform with a slick floor, requiring that you attempt to slow down quickly, or build up even more speed to make the next jump.

Suspended over the bottomless pits are various objects that let you bounce upward. Stars send you bouncing very high, and you can bounce on them more than once if needed. Arrows only send you upward a short distance, making them more challenging. Often, you will find several arrows aligned vertically, which will launch you high in the air… but you’d better stick your landing because these arrows disappear after use. You may also find several arrows positioned over a large gap, requiring multiple precision landings.

There are a few levels that feature teleporters, generally used in conjunction with forced scrolling, thereby requiring that you reach the teleporter before it is scrolled offscreen. Often, you will find yourself running against the scroll path in order to jump through a teleporter that will send you to a safe point a bit further ahead. But you must still act quickly, as you generally don’t have more than a few seconds to spare. Teleporters also retain your momentum, so you need to be careful when moving or jumping through one, as that’s how you’ll emerge from the other end.

Lasers are a frequent hazard as well, with solid lasers that block your path, and moving lasers that force you to dodge away or get behind a solid object. There are also a number of spinning lasers that require you to dodge them, and then get your timing right to hit platforms before the next laser swings in behind you.

The game occasionally turns the world on its head… offering levels where the entire environment shifts suddenly at an angle, or even rotates 90 degrees, forcing you to consider the awkward pull of gravity as you move forward.

The game includes a number of vertically scrolling levels, and even drawn out, multi-level fights against various boss-type enemies, including a fellow who claims to be the Pope and pursues you in his UFO.

Later levels feature rather prominent use of missiles as hazards, and as a method of keeping you moving. At first, you’ll only have one or two missiles seeking you, and you can dodge around them, and even smash downward to destroy them entirely (although launchers will send more your way). However, you will eventually encounter screens full of missiles coming at you from multiple directions, often while you are also attempting to perform complex platforming maneuvers. There is no trick to this; you must be fast, lure missiles away, and destroy them when you can.

Missiles will eventually run out of steam on their own and disappear, but this takes quite some time. Many of the boss encounters feature abundant use of missiles that must be continuously dodged while performing other moves, and while you attempt to stay alive long enough to defeat the boss. There are even a few exploding platforms in the game that unleash heat seeking missiles when activated.

Boss battles tend to be all about survival, forcing you to move quickly through an environment while dodging projectiles. For the most part, just staying alive is the challenge, although you do occasionally need to perform other actions, such as hitting specific marks to launch missiles, or maneuvering to a specific object to smash it. Boss battles offer a fair amount of variety, including a traditional shmup sequence where you must dodge projectiles and unload bullets at an enemy ship, and a chase sequence where you must run from a giant rampaging monster that can shoot lasers from its eyes.

Most enemies are stationary or follow simple patrol routes, and they are often in place simply to make it more difficult to land on a narrow platform or move quickly through the environment. However, a there are a few more deadly varieties, including those that fire indestructible spinning projectiles, and small ones that fire a solid laser in whichever direction they’re facing.

For an added challenge, stars are tucked in various corners of the environment, generally in out of the way areas that are tough to reach (and optional). The level select screen offers a summary showing your level completion time, lowest number of deaths, and the number of stars collected. Collecting enough stars opens up more challenging arenas in the fourth world.

Shadowy NPC’s stand about in many levels, sometimes offering gameplay tips or offering information about a particular mechanic. Many times, however, they’re just in place to say silly things as you run past them.

In most games, the presentation doesn’t affect the gameplay. A game may be filled with high definition graphics or have a pixelated old school look, but the gameplay remains the same. Here, however, the overblown presentation sometimes bleeds into the core experience. As mentioned, the game features upbeat electronica, and it uses no small number of bright colors in the background to contrast with the pure black platforms in the foreground.

There are a number of environmental flourishes, including growing flowers and trees, and flashing pinwheels of light that further enhance this experience. But some of the blinking, flashing, and spinning lights can actually impact the difficulty level, purposely distracting the player, and sometimes actively influencing the environment. For example, one level features a pure black background with spinning white lights. Since the foreground is built in pure black as well, this effectively means that the platforms are constantly fluctuating between being visible and invisible.

While the levels are generally quite short and can be completed quickly, the overall game is quite challenging, putting all of your platforming skills to the test. There are a few variations on your basic moveset, but the character never actually becomes more powerful. This requires that you apply increasingly deft use of your abilities as the game’s difficulty continues to escalate, mastering the core skills or dying in the attempt.

Electronic Super Joy was developed by Michael Todd, who is based in Toronto, Canada, with music by enV. In 2014, they released a 13-level mini-sequel entitled Electronic Super Joy: Groove City.

Michael’s previous commercial releases include a 3D puzzle game entitled Little Gardens in 2012, and an action/simulation game called Engine of War in 2007. Michael has also taken part in a number of game jams, and is the cofounder of the Toronto Skillswap and the Toronto Jammers, developing numerous gameplay prototypes in a short time.