Snootch to the Nootch!
There’s a special kind of charm when a game bases itself on a movie series, let alone something as iconic as Jay and Silent Bob. While my memory was a bit fuzzy on the series, a few minutes into Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl brought back some fond memories of that crude 90’s humor that I watched without my parents’ permission.
Tell ’em, Steve-Dave!
With no plot to speak of and no words exchanged between the main characters, Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl really harkens back to when games often didn’t need rhyme or reason for what you’re doing. While there’s not a bit of dialogue to be seen in this whole game, it doesn’t need it to clue you in on the weird and wacky events and enemies to face. That said, this game stresses a reliance on you having watched at least one or two movies from The View Askewniverse to get some of the references, which could damper the experience you have with the game if you’re just here for some beat ’em up action. The designs of the characters and enemies are pretty spot on for what you’d expect with the old-school styling. From taking down the mall’s local Easter Bunny to vanquishing a living pile o’ poo, there’s no shortage of strangeness that’s more than likely what you’re playing this for in the first place. All of this is rendered in some crisp and clear 8-Bit retro pixel styling that even has filters for CRTA and CRTB. Having played this on Xbox One, I didn’t have any stutter or frame drops running a smooth 60fps.
With Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl having both of our titular troublemakers on roll call, you can either take the journey on in single-player or with co-op. If you play co-op, both players are on the stage at once, but you switch between the two if you do it solo. Should one hero fall, the other will automatically take its place while the fallen hero gains up to half their health back. A little melody will announce when the fallen hero’s ready to get back in the fray, and as long as you keep one person ready on the back end, you can keep going as long as you want. If you wind up with both heroes down, it’s a game over, and you start from the start of the level. Which isn’t too much of a detriment, seeing that the levels are fairly short, usually a few enemies then a boss battle. Rinse and repeat for about ten levels, and that’s game, so it’s not a long run at all.
Sock to the Dome Piece!
Any fan of classic beat-em-ups won’t have much trouble picking up and playing this one. The controls are boiled down to the tried and true jump/kick/punch, with some combos thrown in that are unique to each character. The game doesn’t tell you much about these combos, though, relying on you to fish them out of the randomized tips or just experiment around on your own to see what happens. Some may find this a bit jarring not to know much about these combos as they’re a bit necessary on later levels to keep hitting hard and fast. Around chapter six to seven, they’re all but necessary to keep the more troublesome enemies off your back and either stunned or dead (trust me, you’ll hate mall ninjas by the end of this).
Adding to this, as with a good chunk of beat ’em ups, you can pick up weapons that are either dropped from destructibles or ripped from the hands of your enemies. You can get anything from baseball bats to the classic sock full of quarters. Never in my life did I think I’d get to clobber a mall-goer with a stiff bra.
And while it spares no expense capturing the old-school vibes, it takes with that some of the less desirable features that vibe brings with it. The challenge really spikes up once you hit the middle of the game, to the point that less dogged players may give up after having to restart the level one too many times. One segment harkened back to the Turbo Tunnels from Battletoads but with a shopping cart and way too many old ladies and potato carts. Another little nuisance is that failing the last boss battle makes you redo the entire prior level, which can feel pretty punishing for a slip-up. Challenge is good, but there was already plenty to be had along the way, so adding something like that at the end felt discouraging. I’m no slouch with this genre, but I started to feel a bit more pressure than I would’ve like out of what’s essentially a parody piece with some fun gameplay. Not all gamers will want to rise to the challenge here, and that’s a bit of a shame as there’s some great content here.
Fifteen Bucks, Little Man
Is a fairly solid beat ’em up paying homage to the greatest of Kevin Smith’s greatest gags worth a full fifteen dollars? While the enjoyment of it seems a bit situational, if you’re a fan of Smith’s comedy hijinks and want a playable museum of his best, I’d say that fifteen’s worth it. While the challenge is there and the combat satisfies, it doesn’t strive to make any new ground in the genre, other than a couple of tricky levels inspired by games of the era it aims to imitate. This is perfectly fine because it does all that it needs to with what it is, a simple NES throwback with some 90’s movie flair that thrives for nostalgia in more ways than one. Even if you don’t know much about the movies, if you catch this on sale, give it a try. Who knows, you might find yourself with some movies to watch for the weekend.
Available on: Xbox One (reviewed), PC, Switch, PS4; Publisher: Interabang Entertainment ; Developer: Spoony Bard Productions; Players: 1 – 2 ; Released: May 7, 2020 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $14.99