I Got Nothin’
HIGH A classic-looking 8-bit beat-’em-up.
LOW It’s very, very difficult.
WTF Why do dropped items disappear after only five seconds??
It’s not often that a new title releases on an NES cartridge alongside current-gen consoles in the year 2021. It’s also not often that I encounter a difficult game whose hardships I simply cannot condition myself to conquer.
Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl ticks both of these boxes.
To be clear, that’s not to say there’s nothing to like here. The 8-bit graphics are cute and the titular duo are accurately represented by their respective sprites, barring the difference in height between the two (Kevin Smith as the shorter Silent Bob, and Jason Mewes as Jay).
These two originally appeared on the big screen in 1994’s Clerks. They went on to frequent roles in subsequent “View Askewniverse” films such as 1997’s Chasing Amy, 1999’s Dogma, and more. The pair are known for their marijuana-infused humor, harsh social commentary and politically-incorrect comments, which has turned them – and especially creator Kevin Smith – into popular characters over the years.
While we usually find these two selling drugs in front of a shop or a market, this game takes place inside of a shopping mall. This building is full of society’s outcasts, petty delinquents, and of course, security guards — all of which enter melee on sight. Needless to say, there are numerous callbacks to the Askewniverse, like the mini-mart where Jay and Bob usually hang and many enemies that resemble characters from the movies.
The combat is simple and serviceable. On their end, Jay and Silent Bob can utilize kicks and punches — Jay has a cool leg combo, ending with a mid-air ‘propeller’ motion, and Bob gets punches that evolve into a whirlwind-like move, in addition to things like jumping or running attacks. It’s quite satisfying when more than one baddie is caught in a flurry, but don’t expect to dominate — these enemies practically cheat!
I believe the shortcomings here are rooted in the limitations of the NES console that J&SB is adhering to. One of the first things that leaps into focus is the extremely small number of characters present on screen at once – usually, only two foes at a time. However, each and every one of them is a tough cookie.
The enemies follow the now-long-outdated trick of reading every input the player makes, as it were intended for them. In-game, this translates to enemies reacting at the same exact time to any movement made by Jay or Bob – if the player aims to create breathing room by moving upwards, one enemy will close all escape routes from that point, while other will hone in on the player’s position. Because of this, foes will prophetically close off all angles around the characters, putting them in the middle of a pincer formation fast.
On top of that, many enemies spawn with a weapon in hand, allowing them a longer reach and a few easy hits. Those weapons can be wrestled out of their possession, but will soon break once in player hands.
The most annoying enemies were the skateboarding goons. They move fast, kick hard, and are vulnerable only from above. Yet, landing such a precise blow merely pushes them off their board and they regain their position in the very next second while Jay and Bob need a longer period of time to recover from the air kick that knocked them off! When fighting two skaters at once, players can expect to receive many, many cheap shots.
Despite being frequently infuriated, I probably would’ve pressed on and rolled credits had I found a single element that captured my attention. Unfortunately, Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is a serviceable beat-’em-up at best, and any real enjoyment will come solely from nostalgia and callbacks for fans of the IP.
— Konstantin Koteski
Disclosures: This game is developed by Interabang Entertainment and published by The Media Indie Exchange. It is currently available on XBO, PS4, PC, NES and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 2.5 hours were devoted to the story, and the game was not completed. 30 minutes were spent in couch co-op, which is “drop-in, drop-out”. Online co-op is not supported.
Parents: This game has received an T rating by the ESRB, and contains Crude Humor and Fantasy Violence. The game is heavily inspired by NES classics like Double Dragon and River City Rampage. It features cutely drawn 8-bit characters able to jump, kick and punch, with many hand weapons available for limited usage. Enemies can be driven to a “hazed” state, and then grabbed for a few knee-to-the-head kicks, which is the most violent move I’ve seen in the game. Defeated foes disappear quite quickly, and no blood is visible.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There is no speech in this game, and the size of the text is not changeable, but clear enough. Sound is completely unimportant for playing this game. This is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: This game does not offer a controller diagram, but the control scheme is remappable. The base layout is that movement is on the left analog stick or the directional buttons, while the face buttons can be assigned for jumping, punching or kicking.