With the sheer number of “retro-inspired” titles that seem to fall almost daily on platforms of the current generation, it’s something special to stand out from the crowd. A few familiar characters standing in front and in the middle are a start. A series of locations and recalls to multiple films that these characters have starred in is another bonus. Luckily Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl – Arcade Edition has both to offer. However, since the gameplay is as frustrating and cheap as some of the more imperfect retro titles that the product takes inspiration from, these pluses are mostly free.
Initially, Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl – Arcade Edition seems like a charming affair whose heart is in the right place. The game will play in a boxed window to try to keep drawing your retro-infused hearts. The rest of the visual styles end up roughly in the same stadium as the NES versions of side scrollers such as: Double kite and River City ransom. Fans will find it easy to get a smile here. You will take on a myriad of enemies straight from Kevin Smith’s films including Cocknocker, Golgatan, Mooby the Golden Calf, and the legendary security guard LaFours, all of which turn out to be formidable opponents. You’ll fight in familiar locations from View Askewniverse, with it all culminating in a final punch-for-punch showdown against Dante and Randall von Employees. It’s All in a Day’s Work as you struggle to regain your right to lean against the wall in front of the Qwik Stop. Snoogans.
The players tackle the nine levels alone as the eponymous Jay or the eponymous Silent Bob, while the inactive character hangs out off the screen. Pressing RB allows you to switch characters at will, allowing the highlighted type to regain a little energy over time. If either pair is knocked out, it will automatically toggle and cannot be brought back in for a while. When both are knocked out, the template is up and it’s game over.
If it works, the tag system is great. The problem is that there are many times during the game that your character is essentially “stuck” and you can’t get out, even if you’re the one on the offensive. This problem persists at other times as well. Often times, if you take a punch and then try to turn around to hit the guy who is trying to hit you in the back of the head with a gun, you will find that nothing happens. Jay (or Bob) stays the way they already were without noticing the beer bottle or skateboard hurtling to the back of their dome.
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When you add this problem to the fact that hitting and kicking is hit and miss anyway, the fun goes away relatively quickly. Two enemies standing in the exact same spot will often respond differently to attacks as your blows will miss one of them and hit the other. Next time your punches will hit both of them with no problem. There’s no rhyme or reason for it, but the result is that if your attacks inexplicably fail, the unconstrained enemy can deliver a blow that will take control of your dizziness and result in another shower of blows pounding down on you. It is even worse when it results in an incredibly cheap win for your opponent and a return to the beginning of the level.
With no significant blocking, the only way to defend against incoming blows is to get out of the way or strike first. A stroke is possible by tapping the control pad twice, but it does not always work. If you’re doing something that seems unthinkable, like using the analog stick to play, the “always” is not needed in this sentence because swiping is not on the menu when using the more modern input method.
These problems are enough to solve them Mall Brawl feel like a chore to get through An honestly horrific chase with extremely questionable hit detections on roughly a third of the gameplay will be the breaking point for some. The fact that weapons you collect disappear once the opponent you are fighting falls down will be the comic wall that others won’t want to run through. But what scares off the most is the deliberately angry hostile design that persists throughout. Whenever you approach the feeling of having fun, opponents will pop up who don’t seem to be a challenge, just supposed to ruin your enjoyment. A difficult game would be perfectly fine, but too often Mall Brawl’s Technical problems take on an enjoyable challenge and push them into the realm of unfair punishment. An overly long “Boss Rush” ending level that is absolutely excruciating will be enough to break all but the most die-hard or dedicated side-scrolling enthusiast.
It’s a little more fun on the maps when playing co-op with a friend, as some of the downsides of playing duos can easily be tackled with brute force. If you’re a super fan of Kevin Smith’s work, there are a few points worth adding to the score. As another game that swims in a sea of alternative assets, Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl – Arcade Edition can easily be avoided.
As explained in ComingSoon’s review policy, a score of 3 equals “Bad”. Because of significant issues, these media feel like a chore.
Disclosure: Critics bought their own copy of the game for reviewing Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl – Arcade Edition. The game was tested on an Xbox Series X.