Updated: Jun 10, 2021
Publisher: The Media Indie Exchange
Release: May 7, 2020
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
If your formative years were the 80s, you certainly played a lot of beat ‘em ups like Double Dragon or River City Ransom. These games forged friendships as you and your couch co-op friend would spend hours trying to figure out a strategy to beat the next boss. And while these games were fantastic, they were hard as heck. And it wasn’t just the bosses either. The dreaded lag monster would rear its ugly head right when you were surrounded by enemies, trying to jump across a seemingly impossible pit, only to be thrown off by the lag, and falling to your doom. These games stress me out and while I really enjoyed my time playing these games as a kid, I am not running to boot up my old consoles to give those games another run.
So you can understand my hesitation to pick up Jay and Silent Bob: Mallbrawl when it was released. Flashbacks of impossible jumps, hours of frustration, and lag monsters filled my mind when I saw the game. However, being a huge fan of Kevin Smith movies, and in particular, Jay and Silent Bob, I really couldn’t resist the temptation. What finally got me to pick up the game was watching a promotional stream of the game, and the player was saying how challenging the game was. It was at that moment that a little voice in my head said “You can do this, this game is right up your alley”.
Now, I’m not a competitive person by nature, but when I saw the challenge that this game offered, I had to test my skills. And I’m so glad I picked it up. The game is everything that I hoped for and without the irritation of lag. I absolutely love this game.
The game picks up right after Mallrats. You play as Jay or Silent Bob, or play co-op with a friend, and you are trying to escape the mall to get back to the Quickstop. The game is your classic beat ‘em up - one button to punch, another button to kick, and one to jump. You can do flying kicks or elbow smash as well, by hitting the jump and attack buttons together. You can also do special moves, if you have a star. The special move is different for each character. Silent Bob's move is a flying lariat which will take out a few enemies around you. Jay's move is a spinning windmill kick, that will do several points of damage to the enemy. Stars can be earned by landing combos.
If you are playing singler player mode, you can switch between Jay and Silent Bob. This is a necessary tactic, as the character sitting out will gain some health back. Switching between characters is one way to keep your run going. If both characters die before the other sitting out can heal up, then it’s game over. Luckily, the devs allow you to start from the beginning of the level, not from the beginning of the game. Another aspect that is improved over the retro games they are paying their respects to.
One of the coolest aspects of the game is the attention to detail on the characters. Yes I know it’s a retro style 8 bit game, but the characters look so great. Jay and Silent Bob sprites look fantastic and the amount of detail put into the levels and characters is impressive. You’ll instantly recognize the enemies that you fight against: The Easter Bunny, LaFours, and Mooby. There’s also some deep cuts, like Patrick Swayze on a horse, a reference to the animated show Clerks. Aside from the movie references, there are also nods to retro games as well, for example Adoughbo is a clear reference to Abobo in Double Dragon. And the little stars that appear above the enemies heads when you land a combo? That’s a reference to Mike Tyson’s Punchout. And the shadow versions of yourself seems to be a shout out to Zelda II.
Another thing I enjoy about the game is the variety of boss battles. If you approach each boss with the mentality that you can go in and just beat them up, you’re in for a rude awakening. The game gets its influence from retro style games and paying attention to patterns and learning the weak spots on your enemy is important. In fact, if you approach the game as a puzzle game, you’ll do much better. There is one level that everyone seems to dread, the shopping cart level. In this level, you speed past obstacles as you try to make it to the end of the level. You have the ability to jump and move up/down and left/right - but avoid jumping and moving at the same time, as this will cause you major headaches. And there’s no denying that this level is difficult, however, if you approach it from a puzzle aspect, and pay attention to the patterns of the different obstacles on the screen, you’ll do much better.
But probably the best aspect of the game is the fact that there is no lag. Even with all the chaos going on sometimes on the screen, there is no lag to any of your characters movements, no glitchy sprites, just solid game play. What a relief to see that the game can handle the shopping cart level without any performance issues.
Final Grade: A
I was on the fence about purchasing this game, but I’m really glad I did. The controls are tight and there’s no performance issues that I’ve seen in the game. The variety of enemies and boss battles and the call back to the retro games that I grew up with really make this game a lot of fun. If you enjoy games like Double Dragon and River City Ransom and are looking for a challenge, then do yourself a favor and pick this game up.