Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl Review
Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is a curious game. Feeling very much like something Mallrats’ Brodie Bruce would have loved, there’s no questioning developer Interabang Entertainment’s commitment to creating a faithful retro beat ‘em up. Add to that a bevy of nods and references to Kevin Smith’s work and that’s two boxes ticked. But with its retro qualities cemented and its fan service locked in, it falls down in one key area — it isn’t very fun to play.
I’ll admit, that’s a bold claim and one that is entirely subjective. If you’re hankering for a hardcore retro beat ‘em up that can be as punishing as some 90s classics then you might get a kick out of this. However, for me, if you’re making use of a nostalgic license like Jay and Silent Bob a a hardcore throwback like this may be misguided. Casual fans are likely to be turned off very quickly and those inclined to play homage to games like Double Dragon and River City Ransom will quickly get frustrated with how the game actually feels. This is a shame as there’s plenty here for fans to enjoy otherwise.
Taking place directly after the famous game show destruction scene in Mallrats with the dopey duo being chased by security guard LaFours, Jay and Bob’s pixelated caricatures are thrown right into the action. The game’s set up and overall look was initially entertaining and, as a fan of the ViewAskew movies, the idea of battling through levels inspired by that universe was something I really liked. Unfortunately, any excitement was soon replaced by frustration.
Despite mimicking their overall look and feel, Mall Brawl lacks the precision and visual encouragement of classic beat ‘em ups. Enemy hitboxes are ill-defined and character movement is imprecise. This makes actually landing attacks incredibly difficult and jumping strikes felt next to useless. Both Jay and Bob have slight differences to their movesets, but neither were more effective at any one time. Trial and error, consistently swapping between characters to regenerate health, and the patience of a saint is the only way to make it through this game. At which point I feel like it loses much of the fun that inherently comes with both the simple arcade-inspired gameplay and Jay and Silent Bob license.
It’s not an especially hard game to play, but make a couple of mistakes and you’re going to struggle to finish a level. I frequently found myself caught out, backed into a corner, unable to do much of anything to suppress the relentless — and often very cheap — enemies. If neither of our heroes don’t make it to the end of a level alive. Again, this is in keeping with the game’s retro style, but it causes no end of frustration and eventually I found the game became tedious.
The levels are also very similar. Whilst they’ll have different set dressing and a range of enemy types, ranging from skateboarders to hockey players and even ninjas, they’re not all that structurally different. There’s the occasional mini-boss like Mooby or the chance to race through a supermarket in a shopping trolley in a nod to Battletoads — with all of the same issues — but, for the most part, you’re spamming the attack button and moving on to the next screen. This overall lack of variety means that there’s not a lot of incentive to continue if, like me, you were struggling through each level.
Unfortunately, that’s what Jay and Silent Bob Mall Brawl is to me — a struggle.
Interabang Entertainment has made something that looks and often plays, like a throwback. And whilst I appreciate how much the team has stuck to the rules laid out by the games it is referencing and all of the little nods and references are fun, that was never going to be enough to make me want to repeat these levels over and over again.
Despite early promise and a solid use of the Jay and Silent Bob world, for me the developer doesn’t capitalise on what they have here. An unwavering approach to how a beat ‘em up should feel combined with unreliable controls and a tendency for the AI to be incredibly cheap results in a game that will frustrate hardcore beat ‘em up fans, quickly turn off anyone not used to this unforgiving style, and feel like a chore to anyone in the middle.
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