STAFF REVIEW of Jay and Silent Bob - Mall Brawl (Xbox One)

Friday, May 28, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Jay and Silent Bob - Mall Brawl Box art I grew up as an 80’s child, so I’m no stranger to brutally difficult NES games. Many games from that era were so challenging, usually requiring you to start all over again from the beginning when you lost all your lives or continues. Games like that really aren’t as commonplace these days, so naturally I was excited when I saw Jay and Silent Bob – Mall Brawl, not just because I was due for some classic gaming nostalgia, but I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan, having watched all of his movies numerous times ever since the release of Clerks in 1994.

An 8-bit retro beat-em-up, Jay and Silent Bob – Mall Brawl has you controlling the iconic duo of Jay and Silent Bob as they battle numerous enemies and bosses, filled with plenty of View Askewniverse (Kevin Smith’s fictional universe) references for Smith fans. Originally meant to be a free bonus for Kickstarter backers to a still unreleased Jay and Silent Bob game, Chronic Blunt Punch, Mall Brawl released on PC and Switch last year, finally making its way to Xbox in this Arcade Edition with a few extras for Smith and NES fans to enjoy. If you miss the days of classic beat-em-ups like Double Dragon or River City Ransom from the late 80’s, you’re going to want to take note, as this is as close to those games as you can get.

Technically Jay and Silent Bob – Mall Brawl is a direct sequel to Mallrats, as the story it setup in a way where Jay and Silent Bob successfully sabotaged the Truth or Date gameshow in the mall and now must find a way to escape the mall and make your way back to the Quick Stop to hang out like they always do. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve sat down and watched Mallrats, so I took the opportunity to do so before diving in to make sure I would catch as many references as I could, and there were plenty throughout. Of course LaFours makes an appearance as the first mini-boss, the security guard who constantly tries to thwart the duo in the movie, but there’s plenty of other non-Mallrat movie references as well which I quite enjoyed as a fan.

Like many classic games from the era, you aren’t going to get any real narrative here, as the opening scene explaining the setup is all there is for any story elements. Fight your way out of the mall and make it to the Quick Stop; that’s the whole setup and payoff. Technically there’s a little something extra once you unlock Hard Mode, but I’ll leave that as a surprise.

Taking place across nine levels, you can play solo or alongside a friend in local co-op. This is of course trying to recreate that 80’s classic NES gaming, and the difficulty is no exception, so expect to die and have to restart levels many times. Old school gamers like myself won’t be shocked by this, but the difficulty does have some quite steep spikes now and then, especially near the end when you have to take on a boss gauntlet back to back. Thankfully once you beat a level you will restart at the beginning of that stage if you die, except for chapter nine, putting you back to the start of level eight if you fail the final boss fight. While I was finally able to complete the game on Normal after a handful of tries for each stage, Hard Mode unlocks after completion, but good luck ever completing that.

The classic 8-bit retro visuals, audio and gameplay made me smile, not even including all of the movie references that fans will catch onto. This updated Arcade version has a few extra bonuses, like being able to toggle between classic NES style mode or a slightly more refined Arcade version, though there’s very minimal differences that I could tell aesthetically. You can also choose different borders and toggle CRT monitor scanlines if you really want a true authentic retro experience.

Almost every level is going to most likely take you a few tries to complete, as the classic NES challenge is always present. Playable solo or alongside a friend locally, Jay and Silent Bob – Mall Brawl is certainly able to be enjoyed by yourself but co-op makes it a much more tolerable and better experience given its difficulty. Half the challenge is figuring out each enemy type’s attack pattern and how best to counter it. The skateboarders for example need to be jump kicked off their decks if you want to use it against them, or knowing how to avoid getting gored by the Mooby's mascot.

There’s actually a ton of references, not just on the Kevin Smith side, but nods to NES classics as well. For example, you’re going to have to eventually fight some musclebound pretzel head enemies, aptly called Adoughbo, a satire of Double Dragon’s mascot Abobo. There’s even a tough as nails level where you have to ride a shopping cart through the mall, trying not to crash or hit anything, a nod to the iconic Turbo Tunnel level from Battletoads. Of course there are plenty of View Askewniverse references that any Smith fan will notice instantaneously, like beating up the Easter Bunny, a Sockful-o-quarters, a boss with a huge fist and more. Many of the achievements are inside jokes that fans will smirk at as they’re popular jokes from the movies.

Combat is basic but exactly the type of gameplay you’d find from games in that era. Like Double Dragon and others, you have a Punch, Kick and Jump button, as a well as being able to swap from Jay to Silent Bob when needed. It’s a simplistic control scheme but being swarmed by enemies from all sides when playing solo can be quite difficult. This is where the character swap comes into play. With the press of a button you can freely swap between Jay and Silent Bob. More than simply playing the character you like more, there’s a strategic reason for doing so.

If you’re playing Jay for example and end up losing all your health, it will automatically swap Silent Bob in to play. The character not being used will very slowly regenerate their health and once it’s half-filled they can be tagged in again. If the second character dies before the first is ready to be swapped in, then it’s game over and you start over again from the chapter you’re currently on. The character swap eventually needs to be done strategically, as you’ll want to swap in or out based on how much health you got left or if there’s food to pick up on the ground. It would have been nice to have a moment of invulnerability when swapping, as many times I would tag in only to get hit right away, but that’s part of the challenge. When you attempt Hard Mode though health doesn’t regenerate, so you’re going to have to beat each level without both characters dying; good luck with that.

I really enjoyed the classic 8-bit visuals, giving that classic nostalgia that I grew up with. Characters from the movies are instantly recognizable and if you didn’t know any better, you might actually think it’s simply a classic NES game from the era. The chiptune music is also just as well done and also fitting for the adventure. While many movie licensed games are generally quite terrible, Jay and Silent Bob – Mall Brawl blends a fun but frustrating 80’s game experience with pop culture movie references, a perfect blend of Double Dragon and Kevin Smith source material.

While the challenge may be a little too steep for some, gamers from my era should know exactly what to expect. It by no means does anything new with the genre or gameplay but was an entertaining yet frustrating few hours of nostalgia gameplay I mostly enjoyed aside from the final two levels. It's a good thing I’m the perfect demographic for Jay and Silent Bob – Mall Brawl; an 80’s NES kid that loves Kevin Smith movies. Snoochie Boochies.

**Jay and Silent Bob - Mall Brawl was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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