Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is certainly better than a licensed game by LJN, but it also doesn’t strive much beyond providing a retro good time.
Originally conceived as a Kickstarter reward for another upcoming game starring the duo, Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is a mostly paint-by-numbers retro beat ’em up with interesting boss fights and a few surprises scattered throughout its levels. Developer Interabang Entertainment captures the nostalgia of the era well, but manages to also incorporate some of its shortcomings, resulting in a fairly forgettable experience outside of the source material’s influence on the title.
While Mall Brawl originally debuted on Switch and PC last year, this year’s new Arcade Edition on consoles adds in better graphics and a remastered soundtrack. As the name implies, that does boost the game past the capabilities of 8-bit consoles, but not far enough to feel inauthentically retro. There is a toggle in the settings to switch between both versions, and the differences in all cases are noticeable but minimal. Jay and his silent partner are still stubby pixel heroes beating up skater kids, cow mascots, and a string of unique bosses throughout arcades and lingerie shops.
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As far as gameplay goes, both slackers have just a jump and a pair of attacks, letting players perform a dropkick and grab foes when combining the two. It’s a simplistic control scheme that gets the job done without much flair, and the lack of something like a life-draining super move is surprising. Then again, it might not need that extra level of strategy thanks to its accessibility. The game is definitely easier than many of its 8-bit contemporaries, offering a true challenge only after the first playthrough wraps up. Not many are going to beat these levels on the first try, but it’s easy to make progress thanks to checkpoints at the start of each stage and the familiar old-school feeling of mastery through trial and error.
As is the case with the games that inspired it, Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl feels designed more around local co-op play than solo action. Enemies gang up on an isolated player often, getting off cheap shots that could be avoided with a second character on screen. Playing alone does allow for switching between Jay and Silent Bob at will, so it’s not impossible to beat. Still, bringing a friend to the couch is very much recommended.
While there are a few references to both the Kevin Smith filmography and past beat ’em ups, Mall Brawl doesn’t fill every square inch of each stage with nostalgic callbacks. This is for the best, as the times when it does something special stand out that much more. A shopping cart ride reminiscent of the Battletoads Turbo Tunnel and several specific bosses keep things interesting without overstaying their welcome, and the game’s ending is perfect considering the source material.
Anyone picking up Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl will know what they’re getting into from the jump. The 8-bit action will have a hard time attracting newcomers to this style of game, but it does successfully capture both the spirit of classics like Double Dragon and the vibe of Kevin Smith’s modern output. Co-op play does shine brighter than solo brawling, and the game doesn’t come close to modern favorites like Streets of Rage 4, but there is a lot to like for someone who just needs a new NES-style fix in 2021.
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Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is available now on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. Screen Rant was provided a copy of the Xbox One version for the purposes of this review.
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