Jay And Silent Bob: Mall Brawl

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Developer: Interabang Entertainment
Release Date: May 20, 2021


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Xbox One Review - 'Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 5, 2021 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is a full 8-bit retro beat-em-up experience with big levels, big bosses, dope combos, and irreverent references to the View Askewniverse.

Buy Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl

Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch was supposed to be out by now. The wildly animated, over-the-top, beat-'em-up was announced a long time ago but suffered countless delays — enough that people may have forgotten that it existed. To satisfy the people who have been waiting for the game, Interabang Entertainment accelerated development on Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl, a spin-off title that had a decidedly more retro flavor. It's retro enough that it can run on a standard NES. After first releasing on the NES, Nintendo Switch and PC, the game has made the jump to both the PS4 and Xbox One.

The beat-'em-up genre doesn't need more than a basic story. Mall Brawl is set immediately after the movie "Mallrats," where the duo sabotages a local cable access dating competition. Being chased around by security, their goal is to escape the mall and return to loitering in front of the Quick Stop. That's all there is to it, and diehard Kevin Smith fans will appreciate the little nods to his movies and TV shows, both in-game and with the Achievement titles.

The core gameplay follows the basic yet familiar tenets of the genre. Picking either Jay or Silent Bob, you walk left or right until the scrolling stops and the enemies appear. Enemies appear two at a time, and you punch and kick them until they disappear, or you can beat them up with a weapon. Every enemy who dies is replaced with someone new until the group for that area has been vanquished, and you move on to repeat the process. Boss fights are the only time that enemies emerge solo, but the premise remains the same. Unlike what some may expect, the beat-'em-formula is a classic one, so you may see some moves in your arsenal, like grabbing enemies and smacking them in the face with a knee, don't expect anything modern, like learning new moves or leveling up.

As with many beat-'em-ups, the game has co-op, so you and a friend can tackle the game together, but it plays differently because each player only has one life. The game doesn't necessarily end if one person dies, but hopefully their partner can survive long enough for the health meter to regenerate to the halfway point, giving them the chance to jump back in and keep fighting.

It's a cool mechanic, but it shines when you're playing the game solo because you can swap between Jay and Silent Bob with the press of a button, and that's important since each character has an independent health meter. Tag out to the other character, and he can start recovering health to the halfway point, and the same thing occurs if the tag happens because one character dies; tagging is disabled until the dead player reaches the halfway mark on their health. In both co-op and solo modes, health recovery only occurs when the other person is fighting, so you can't waste time standing around while meters go up. It adds some tension when your last active character only has a sliver of health remaining and the one who's recovering isn't faring much better.

Other changes feel odd, such as when you get a weapon. Getting things like a bra is funny, and getting chains is expected, but they disappear after only a few uses or once you beat an area, and that won't sit right with genre vets. The AI is aggressive to the point where they'll flank you once you start beating on someone, so your strategy almost always boils down to getting both enemies on one side so you don't leave yourself open. Even then, you must be very close to the enemy, since your limbs are stubby and you don't have much reach. Of all of the old traits the team has adopted, one that isn't appreciated is that you repeat a boss gauntlet near the end. It's sure to be a point of frustration, since you restart at the beginning of the level if/when you die.

Despite those odd design decisions, Mall Brawl does other things rather well. The boss fights can be tricky to figure out, but not all of them involve simple punching and kicking, so that's a welcome change of pace for bosses in this genre. The inclusion of a Battletoads-esque auto-running level can immediately fill one with dread, but it's much easier to conquer because it works well. Most importantly, the game saves your progress, which does a great job in counteracting the rather high difficulty level later on.

There's not much else to the title beyond the campaign. There's no battle mode, which is a positive since that's rarely played more than once. There's also no online play, which is a bit of a shame since that's always welcome in a beat-'em-up. The only extra you'll get is a higher difficulty level, which is for the masochistic, as the normal difficulty is tough once you hit the back half.

The presentation is stellar when you consider that it was aiming for something authentic to the NES experience rather than an approximation of it. The sound effects sound like they were ripped from various titles of the time period, while the chiptune music is excellent; you may hear the same song loop through several levels but not get annoyed. Graphically, the colors are accurate, and the art style is good overall, as it looks like a mix between Mega Man and River City Ransom. There's nothing to complain about here.

Overall, Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is an enjoyable title if you can forgive some of its issues. The overly aggressive AI, the short hit reach, and the classic game padding don't make for a pleasant experience once you notice them. However, the experience is solidly enjoyable, with some concessions made for those aforementioned flaws, and it accomplishes the rare feat of having the solo experience be a bit more fun than the multiplayer one. While fans of the duo will get a big kick out of this game, and even those who aren't familiar with these characters will enjoy their time with this title.

Score: 7.0/10

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