The days of the NES were an odd time for games that were based on licenses from other properties. The video game industry wanted to capitalize on the popularity of established entertainment media but translating certain things to games didn’t always make a whole lot of sense. A lot of these games were terrible, and others might have been enjoyable, but the link between the game and source material was tenuous. The View Askewniverse is an entertaining place but doesn’t seem like there’s much action there, which makes it the perfect foundation for an NES beat ’em up.
Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl has America’s favorite drug dealers (or fireworks salesmen depending on the ESRB rating) fighting their way through the mall to escape security, clerks and other mallrats after successfully pulling off a prank that creates havoc for Jared Svenning’s “Truth or Date” game show. While Jay and Silent Bob are best known for spewing profanity laden dialog while occasionally giving profound sagely advice, this is brawler so it’s necessary that they strike back against the various people preventing their exodus from the mall.
Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is an interesting game in its very existence. It was designed as a companion piece to the still in development Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch. People who supported the latter by contributing to Fig at the Digital Game tier or above will receive Mall Brawl for free, but for those who didn’t, fifteen bucks, little man, is all you need to get this (game) in your hand. Also, while Mall Brawl is available for Steam and Switch it is actually an NES game, not just an NES style game complete with the hardware limitations. As such, collectors may purchase Mall Brawl on a physical NES cartridge through Limited Run Games with the proceeds going to fund the development of Chronic Blunt Punch.
The gameplay is exactly like many NES beat ’em ups, and due to the art style the most immediate comparison that springs to mind is River City Ransom. Mall Brawl is better played co-op, but in single player mode players can switch between Jay and Silent Bob. The two stoners have different enough move sets where it is interesting enough to switch between the two. The character who isn’t being played will partially regenerate their health, so juggling between the two can have some strategic benefits to staying alive. The attacks are pretty much what one would expect from this style of game, a series of punches and kicks until the enemy is overpowered but by collecting stars the player can unleash a devastating combo attack. As a reviewer, it’s one of my responsibilities to learn things the hard way so consumers don’t have to, so even though I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, don’t attack the elderly women who are peacefully trying to make their way through the mall.
The beat ’em up segments of Mall Brawl take up most of the game, but like many games it falls victim to obligatory gameplay variety syndrome. In level three the developers decide to pay homage to Battletoads by paying homage to the Turbo Tunnel, which is either coincidentally or intentionally also level three. This involves Jay and Silent Bob jumping in a shopping cart and racing through the hallways, dodging banana peels and other obstacles and shoppers. This segment is more forgiving than the Battletoads level thankfully but the imprecise controls in this segment make it especially challenging and seems like a detractor from the main game, despite how easy it is to picture these two flying down a mall in a shopping cart crashing into people.
This beat ’em up does, as expected, pay homage to the works of the Kevin Smith. The enemies are composed of references to Smith’s works such as hockey players and Mooby mascots with boss fights including the Golgothan (Poop) Demon and Patrick Swayze on a horse. Some of the more subtle gags include a store front for the carpet cleaning service Rug Munchers. The View Askew fan service is plentiful enough where Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl doesn’t feel like just a generic NES game with Jay and his life mate thrown in arbitrarily, but actually belongs as part of the View Askewniverse.
The graphics, sounds and mechanics are authentic NES. The good thing is a lot of the flicker and other tech problems that plagued some NES carts is completely absent on the Switch version. As such, some gameplay tricks needed to be employed to beat some of the tougher enemies like standing two pixels worth below them to avoid damage. The limitations of NES hardware is present by design, which can be a pro or con based entirely on the player’s opinion of the 35 year old hardware.
Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is tons of fun for fans of 8-bit brawlers. This is a great freebie for people who backed Chronic Blunt Punch, and for those who didn’t it’s easy to get your money’s worth from the cost of admission. As an NES beat ’em up rated E10, it’s a short title with simple gameplay and the tone is more in tune with the short-lived Clerks animated series than how Jay and Silent Bob are portrayed in Smith’s films. But that may have also been intentional since the NES did have puritan content standards that would have never allowed Jay’s rap to exist in glorious 8-bit chiptune. Either way, Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl is a fun title that retro gamers and Kevin Smith fans can enjoy while they wait for Chronic Blunt Punch or his next film.