Since their debut in Clerks back in 1994, Jay and Silent Bob have been mainstays of popular culture. The characters have gone on to star in comics, cartoons, and now the duo even has their very own video game. Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl - Arcade Edition is a sidescrolling beat-'em-up game pitting the stoner duo against a plethora of foes. Developed in the style of 8-bit NES brawlers like River City Ransom and Double Dragon, Mall Brawl is the kind of old-school mash-up that might seem unusual on paper, but works far better than most gamers would expect.
Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is seemingly positioned as a sequel to Mallrats, but it actually pulls a number of elements from the entire "Askewniverse." Having sabotaged the game show Truth or Date, the duo is now on the run from several foes as they try to make it to the Quick Stop. The game takes place across nine levels, and can be played as a single-player experience or with two players.
When played solo, Mall Brawl has the player choose between Jay and Silent Bob, but they will switch back and forth between the two throughout the game. Players can swap with the push of a button, but once a character is defeated, the other will automatically swap in. The defeated character will slowly regain health, but if both are defeated without at least one of them being at half health, it's game over. Beating the game unlocks a Hard mode, in which the defeated character regains no health.
Casual Jay and Silent Bob fans might be caught off-guard by Mall Brawl's difficulty. It's nothing old-school gamers wouldn't expect, but the level of challenge can be steep. Fortunately, the difficulty level is rarely unfair. Once a level has been completed, players won't have to revisit them, with one exception: the last two levels. Level eight tasks players with defeating nearly every enemy in the game, while the ninth level pits Jay and Bob against shadow versions of themselves. The final boss fight is legitimately tough, and dying in the ninth level forces the player to take on the eighth level all over again. That challenge makes for a very rewarding victory, but most players will probably struggle a little bit to get there.
Controls are an important part of any sidescrolling beat 'em up, and Mall Brawl is mostly strong in that department. Moves are fairly basic, with each button allowing players to punch, kick, or perform a jump attack. If there's one issue I had with the controls, it's the fact that the dash is a bit finicky. I rarely felt I could rely on it, to the point that I didn't bother trying after a while. Mall Brawl offers some basic controller mapping options, but nothing too intricate. I would have liked an option to switch the jump button, but I eventually got used to its placement.
Mall Brawl's presentation is very strong. The music is catchy and memorable. The characters look great, and that goes beyond Jay and Silent Bob. Villains like the Easter Bunny, the Excremental, and Cock-Knocker have been perfectly redesigned to fit within the game's world. The latter character looks like a villain from Mega Man, and it ends up being a really strong mash-up. This is a game in desperate need of some tie-in merchandise, because these 8-bit designs would lend themselves well to Pixel Pals, or some other cool toys.
The character designs are just one of the ways the game uses the Askewniverse license well. Mall Brawl is jam-packed with references to the films, and even the Clerks animated series. The game features familiar locations like Brody's Secret Stash (as it appears in Jay and Silent Bob Reboot), the food court, and the Truth or Date stage. The game's achievements even feature in-jokes based on the franchise.
I fell in love with Kevin Smith films in my teen years, devouring the Askewniverse movies, comics, and anything else I could get my hands on. I guess you could say I'm the exact target audience for Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl - Arcade Edition, and the game really delivered for me. It's fun, the old-school graphics look great, and developer Interabang Entertainment filled the game with winks and nods that fans will definitely appreciate. The difficulty level might turn off less-experienced gamers, and it's on the shorter side, but these are minor quibbles. This is well worth a purchase for Askewniverse fans. Snoogans.0comments
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl - Arcade Edition is currently available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. A retail code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on an Xbox Series X.