Can a retro modern game be too retro for its own good? This is a question we asked ourselves while playing Interabang Entertainment's Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl as a PS4 beat-'em-up restricted by the limitations of additionally being released on a cartridge for the original NES hardware.
We also questioned that if it made us feel so frustrated, were we even having fun? Yet, upon completing its final Chapter 9 in a hair pulling, straight playthrough – which takes at least an hour starting with Jay and Silent Bob running from the security guard, LaFours, following their game show sabotage mission in Mallrats, through to a fan-pleasing return to Kevin Smith's film roots — it hit home that this is exactly what it felt like to beat stubbornly unforgiving 8-bit games in the 1980s.
Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl isn't even that hard, it's just messy in making you face the possibility of shock and damage. Timing is key due to blundering hitboxes, mixed awkwardly with Jay and Silent Bob's stubby arm reach, and floaty jump attacks to try to avoid the cheapest of sly hits, with no last ditch desperation moves. Weapons-wise, hitting enemies with a baseball bat feels no different to nunchucks, unfortunately, or thwacking them with a bra, and none of the weapons slice with a shnickty shnickty shnoine.
It's testament to the chiptune talent of Toni Leys that even when repeating a chapter for umpteen tries through unlimited continues, the catchy tunes don't grate. Taking into account it doesn't have supercharged 8-bit graphics like Shovel Knight, its authentic 8-bit approach is in awe both graphically and in gameplay towards Technōs' NES brawler games — especially Double Dragon, right down to a chocolate covered pretzel headed version of Abobo. While Tomas Guinan captures the look of River City Ransom, Mall Brawl lacks the diverse gameplay and variety of that game's upgradeable stats and purchasable move-set. Still, it's unique as one of the few side-scrolling brawler games that we enjoyed more by switching between two main characters as a single player strategy of managing regenerating health, as opposed to sharing food court snacks with a friend in local co-op.
Unsurprisingly, there's humour throughout, made evident by one Trophy tasking you to beat up the Easter Bunny to avenge Brodie. The route to a Platinum via 21 Trophy targets also seems like plain sailing, but once you realise that 0.0% of players have been able to 'Clear hard mode in one run without a Game Over', you'll recognise that you mightn't see the sailboat everyone keeps talking about. Perhaps if you wished that Double Dragon IV followed in the first two arcade games' presentation style, then Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl's 8-bit throwback approach is not for you. Regardless, for those of us who crave more in the same vein of Technōs NES bickety bam beat-'em-ups, then playing Mall Brawl may just be your retro Wolvie berserk style. What else are we gonna do? Snootchie Bootchies!
A View Askewniverse-set retro game is something I never knew I wanted. It's a shame it doesn't sound like the romp it could have been.
Been a huge fan of Kevin Smith and Jay and Silent Bob since Clerks and this is not really what I would have wanted from their first(?) video game.
I can see why Smith thought this might have been a good idea but I won't be buying it until it's a couple of quid or less in a sale.
I'll just keep playing my Technōs Collection on my Evercade.
Sorry Jay & Silent Bob.
I bought the boxed NES version from Limited Run Games (still sealed) and then bought the PS4/5 version. I was born in 85 and grew up with the NES and SNES so naturally I am a huge fan of games like Double Dragon, TMNT, River City Ransom, Final Fight, Streets of Rage, etc. I also loved Clerks, Mallrats and the rest of the Kevin Smith movies. If you appreciate what I appreciate then I can confidentially say you will enjoy this game.
For anyone interested in Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl, it released quietly on PS4 three weeks ago on Thursday 20th May 2021 for £14.99. There were a lot of developers involved with creating this game, too, so as well as Interabang Entertainment, additional art was done by Wallride Games. Interabang also partnered with Spoony Bard Productions, and The Media Indie Exchange (The MIX) helped with publishing.
The PS4 version on its title screen is called Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl Arcade Edition, but most of the settings are display related, with Original Mode looking crisper and brighter than Arcade Mode. There are basic Soft and CRT filters too, which I didn’t use, but I tried the Zoom border that fills the screen more, and blanks out the side wallpapers.
I keep going back to Mall Brawl for local co-op, and to make slow progress in the unlockable hard mode. Hard mode is destroying me, though, because it ditches the addictive hook of resting Silent Bob or Jay to regenerate their health. Hard mode still saves after every chapter, at least, so you get both characters back to full health at the start of each stage.
Mall Brawl seems targeted at a retro niche of specifically NES fans, so it's unapologetically 8-bit in feel, like a 1980s console game, or even a game like Mighty Final Fight from later in the NES' lifespan. In its nature, though, it may feel basic to gamers who are used to more advanced 1990s arcade brawler games in a compilation like the Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle, so don't expect lots of onscreen sprites, or special effects.
It's still fun and successful at achieving that Technōs NES vibe, especially with cracking chiptunes, if that's your jam.
If anyone has any questions, please drop me a comment here.
Enjoyed all your references you squeezed into this review, unfortunately I can only award you a 9/10 though because you didn't throw a "tell em steve-dave" in there
@Bigtuna515 Nice one mate, I really enjoy it when I get the chance to review a game that's linked to a film I love, because I get to go a bit nuts with quotes and movie references.
I took a similar approach when I reviewed the SNES game Super Star Wars, when it released on PS4 in 2015.
There's a hidden Brodie quote from Mallrats in this Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl review, which I’m particularly proud of in the first sentence of the third paragraph, because it's a bit more subtle.
I'm chuffed with your comment, so just remember that the cookie stand isn't part of the food court, a schooner is a sailboat, and Lois could never have Superman's baby.
Cheers to you!
And can you believe that kid is back on the damn escalator! Hopefully you'll get to do the recently announced Jay and Bob chronic blunt punch review mate.
snoochie boochies il get this for the lols!
No online co-op? What is this...an NES game?! 😋
The world needs more chocolatey Abobos.
@SteveZ85 Loved Clerks, Mall Rats and Chasing Amy. Thought he kinda lost it a bit at Dogma, but then Clerks 2 was awesome. Smith has always been a terrible director though when it comes to composing shots. I was born in '76. RESPECT ME!
Loved the review and the references. Well played.
@JohnnyBastos Thanks for complimenting my use of references in this Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl review, although we should be careful not to inflate my ego too much, or I might start walking around exclaiming “Yeah, Badass! Yeah!” or holding a baseball bat above my head and shouting, “Come, Son of Jor-El! Kneel before Zod!”
Joking aside, I really appreciate your kind comment about my review. Fair play to you!
I love the various films and TV shows, but will hold off on playing this until there's a deep sale.
Tap here to load 14 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...