Jackass and video games should go together like a Stevie-O and a stapler. The infamous TV series certainly doesn't lack the material needed for perfect game fodder: take your pick from shooting paintball guns and riding in shopping trolleys to flying off bikes and firework-related practical jokes, to name the first examples to grind along our neurones.
The recent Jackass release on PSP did a fairly decent job of replicating all of this mayhem in a series of mini-games, which you'd think would be the logical direction in which to take the DS title, too. After all, that stylus is made for mini-gaming.
However, someone at the development studio obviously got a bit over-ambitious with the DS production, deciding instead to make it a free-roaming action game. Which is commendable, but it's also safe to say the resulting game isn't what the average Jackass fan is going to appreciate. It's excruciating, sure, but not the way you'd hope: the control system is terrible, the 3D visuals don't look their best on DS and the stunts revolve around two things only – jumping through the air and riding through the streets in a range of improvised vehicles, and neither is actually much fun.
Beginning at the game's sorry start is the option to create your own Jackass character. This stunting newbie needs to earn the respect of various Jackass characters, such as Johnny Knoxville and Wee Man, in order to progress through the six environments and onto bigger and even more bone-crunching stunts. There's a wardrobe of clothes to step into, including later collectable costumes such as the infamous gorilla and Santa suit, or, in typical Jackass style, you can simply go starkers.
While you can't knock the game's attention to detail with regards to the TV show, you can quickly start some serious banging once you begin playing. Even simply running around the free-roaming environments in Jackass is a chore. Your character is clumsy to control and levels are full of dead-ends and slopes that can't be climbed. Much of the joy of being in an open gameworld is supposed to come from exploring, but it's so badly implemented here you'll just aim straight for the nearest character in order to pick up a mission.
That's harder than it sounds, though. Accidentally run into a vehicle or item and it'll likely launch you halfway across the map, back the way you just came. If you're really unlucky your character will get knocked out upon landing and you'll have to wait a couple of frustrating seconds before they get back up again. This stop/start feel is continued in stunts where a simple mislanding spells instant failure and means restarting the mission and skipping several screens to get back to where you were.
It wouldn't be so bad if failure wasn't so frequent, but the stunts involved in Jackass call for such precise landing you'll be re-doing them again and again, not least because they nearly all call for stringing together one object or vehicle after another and it's not always clear where the next one is. To make matters worse, there's no 'instant land' button or way of grabbing onto things (except in the end-of-level stunts which have a unique control method all of their own) so you fly straight over targets, through them or land just short.
If you've seen the screenshots of shopping trolley mayhem and riding runaway pigs, you might be thinking it can't be that bad. But play it and you realise every different rideable vehicle controls much the same, with no brakes and little ability to avoid falling off and instantly ending the stunt. Which is as enjoyable as it sounds.
Alas, even the little amount of depth that's been included is of little worth. If you pull off poses while flying through the air and tricks when on a vehicle, you earn points which then upgrade your character's skills. However, simply holding the A button and alternatively pressing directions on the D-pad for a split-second earns you points with no risk or skill required.
Indeed, absolutely nothing in the game feels earned – completing a stunt which has multiple chains and opportunity for failure is a vast relief but merely requires the memorisation of exactly which direction and how much power you need to set each launch object at.
The recently released The Simpsons Game on DS lacked in the gaming department, but still came out feeling like a lovingly crafted and genuinely funny experience. Unfortunately, there's no such feeling about Jackass: The Game. It's not amusing at all – even when you've just fired your character off the back of a bin lorry and into a brick wall – and there's little of the cheeky humour of the TV series (just a bit of swearing).
The gross-out, wince-a-minute programme tended to be a bit of a love or hate thing, but it's a bit more simple with the DS game. You'll predominantly just hate it.