Would you pay $15 to be in on a joke? That’s what Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is asking. A product of a kickstarter stretch goal for the upcoming Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch, Mall Brawl is a retro 8-bit brawler in the style of Double Dragon or River City Ransom.
And that’s it. That’s the whole game. There’s no depth here that you haven’t seen before. Jay and Bob can punch, kick, and jump. If you really want to go retro style, you don’t even need to use the jump button since pressing punch and kick will make you jump, just like in old school NES era arcade brawlers.
Jay is the fast character who does a good job of handling one-on-one fights. Silent Bob is the slow character that is better at crowd control. Beat the enemy’s face through several different levels, swinging lead pipes and eating floor chicken, until you eventually beat down the final boss and win the game.
There is only one unique mechanic to speak of. In single-player, you can switch between Jay and Silent Bob at any point. When one is active, the other heals up their health over time, to a maximum of half. By strategically managing their health meters and switching in characters to better handle each conflict, you can make your runs last a little longer.
But I’m being honest with you when I say that’s it. That’s all there is to the game. So if Mall Brawl really is that shallow, mechanically, what possible reason would you have to spend $15 on it?
The feeling of going “oh yeah, I remember that thing!”
That’s what this game is all about. It’s absolutely dripping with callbacks to both retro NES games and Kevin Smith’s View-Askewniverse. Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and of course the Jay and Silent Bob series are all represented here, along with deep cuts from associated properties from TV show, film shorts, comics, and other video games.
And that might feel massive and intimidating to you if you aren’t a hardcore Kevin Smith fan, and that’s fair. The game leans hard on that fandom, much more than it does retro NES fandom. Sure, you’ll find a mall cart level that is reminiscent of the speeder bike from Battletoads, spritework that looks like it is ripped from a Kunio-kun game, and a giant brown man with a pretzel for a head named Adoughbo, but that’s about it.
On the other hand, you’ll fight Patrick Swayze riding a horse voiced by Gilbert Gottfried. Don’t remember that part of Clerks: The Animated Series? Well Mall Brawl does. And it’s not just retro Kevin Smith references thrown in there. There are cuts from Jay and Silent Bob: Reboot which came out just last year.
As a result, Mall Brawl is very clearly made for one very specific type of person, the type that has fond memories of NES brawlers and is a living encyclopedia of Kevin Smith knowledge. There probably aren’t a whole lot of people like that in the general market, but the ones that do exist probably donated to Chronic Blunt Punch and so will love getting this little game for free.
Me? I fell through the cracks. I admit that Mall Brawl is a pretty shallow game, but you know what? I’ll pay $15 for a shallow game. It’s designed well, looks great, plays fine, and is all about things that molded my childhood. It’s only real sin is a lack of innovation and a janky looking controller re-map menu. For a $15 game those aren’t huge sins at all.
Let’s put it this way. For $15 I got a brand new Kevin Smith experience that lasted me several hours. I will likely pay that exact amount of money to see Clerks III if it ever comes out. So in my book, Mall Brawl is a good value. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on whether or not you know that Dante was supposed to die in the original cut of Clerks, or how likely you are to say “Snooch to the Nooch” out of genuine excitement.
Then again, you can actually get a physical cartridge that plays on your actual, factual, NES. That, my friends, may be worth it just for the collector’s value.