A Jay and Silent Bob video game? Who would pay to play that?
There’s something beautifully ironic when it comes to Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob. The cross-faded duo’s progression from being loiterers outside of one of cult cinema’s most famous convenience stores, to becoming a staple of Smith’s filmography is all part of what makes their gag so wonderfully obtuse. This strange, self-referential process is something that Jay and Silent Bob retain when translated into pixels.
This becomes evident when playing Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl, a retro-inspired 8-bit creation that has seemingly been created for the purpose of being the faux prequel to the upcoming Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt. Intentional or not, this whole affair parodies the idea of Streets of Rage and its reimagined sequel, which as a joke is very on-brand
As aforementioned, Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is 8-bit, just like old Nintendo games of yore. What’s special about Mall Brawl though is the fact that it’s not just stylised to be an NES game, it actually is one, meaning it also got a release on cartridge, as well a number of modern platforms. While this certainly does earn it points for authenticity, it also acts as an Achilles heel.
If you’re familiar with the beat em up genre, then jumping into this pixelated followup to the events of Mallrats should be a breeze. Taking on the role of Jay and his hetero-life-mate, players will find themselves fighting an army of lackeys as they progress through the games malicious mall setting. Three buttons are all that’s required to kick the soft serve out of ice-cream parlour staff and punch down the Easter Bunny, with the ability to jump in the instance you’re ambushed by a walking chocolate pretzel.
Admittedly, the gameplay here is simplistic – mostly comprising of mashing the jump, kick and punch buttons to build-up combos. Enemies will occasionally drop weapons, which can then be used or thrown back in their faces. There’s something particularly amusing about grabbing the skateboards from some punks, then using it to beat them down into an alternative pulp. Health items are also dropped by some enemies, usually in the guise of food. Who doesn’t love using the five-second rule to enjoy a tasty floor burger?
Mall Brawl offers a nice amount of fan service for those who are familiar with Smith’s View Askewniverse, with various references that are bound to make you chuckle. There’s no doubt, however, that many of the game’s gags will go over other player’s heads, making it all seem more like random silliness. Either way, Interabang Entertainment has done an excellent job on what they set out to achieve – creating a faithful 8-bit tribute to the likes of Double Dragon infused with Kevin Smith’s humour.
One of the main issues with Mall Brawl is its rather disruptive difficulty curve, which is something of a catch-22 caused by it being authentically retro. Some elements of classical difficulty are mitigated by the inclusion of save slots retaining progress and being able to switch between Jay and Bob to allow them to regain their health. Some annoyances though, such as irritating hitbox placements, are an unfortunate quirk of the game’s style. While retro-inspired mechanics are nothing to frown upon, it does mean that you’ll have to take a few unfair hits on the chin. Follow the rules in the book and you’ll get where you’re going in no time.
There’s one particular level within this game that acts as a real stink-palm, somewhat tainting enjoyment of the game overall. As a kid, it’d make you want to go outside and play, whereas as an adult, you’ll probably need to lie down. The section in question is reminiscent of levels like the Turbo Tunnel in Battletoads, having players ride in a shopping cart through a merciless auto-scrolling grocery store, littered with hazardous old ladies and fruit-cart tropes. While this was probably intended to be novel and fun, it instead acts as an unintended form of torture, lasting far too long and leaving a lasting effect on your retinas.
Sadly, due to our current lockdown situation, I was unable to try the games 2-player local co-op mode, which is where these games usually shine. If the games that Mall Braw is based on are anything to go by, the co-op will likely be a fun tag-team experience. The light-hearted tone of the game is best suited to a beer assisted couch collab with friends, as there’s little in the way of specific individual self-fulfilment.
Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl makes for a tremendous NES game, which might make it a great addition to your retro collection, but might come across as more of a novelty when played on modern hardware. Enjoying this game is a matter of context – if you’re playing on original NES hardware, then you’re likely going to be more forgiving of any inherited clunky mechanics. Regardless of how you play, there’s a lot of heart in this mall brawler, with lots on offer to enjoy for retro enthusiasts and Kevin Smith fans alike. Considering a lot of players will receive it as a free pre-order bonus for pre-ordering Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch, it’s bound to have a lot of players smiling, despite that infuriating trip for groceries.
Score – 6.9