Joe and Mac is a game developed by a company called Data East, released initially for arcades in 1991 and ported to the SNES (as well as a myriad of other systems) in 1992 in the United States. Data East is an interesting little company, though they didn't have many big-name games before they went bankrupt in 2003. One you might recall is a little title called BurgerTime. Joe and Mac is a very deep game, filled with suspense, intrigue, mystery, and betrayal, all interwoven in very complex layers, leaving the gamer to wonder about the very nature of existence.
...Nah, that's bullshit. It's a pretty straight-forward platformer set in the anachronistic caveman era, but it is a blast and a half. This was one of a handful of SNES games I actually owned when I was 5 and I've played through it maybe 10 times between then and now. As a result, my review might be a tad (read: INCREDIBLY) biased, but hang in there...we'll get to the bottom of just how good this game really was.
5 out of 10 is a pretty arbitrary score for the story, but if you've been following my last reviews, you'll notice I've been picking games with no real substance to the story. This game is much the same, but I really wanted to avoid putting down another "N/A" for story. Essentially, our lovable heroes are cavemen living in prehistoric times. Life is simple, life is good. However, some dirty bastard has kidnapped all the cave babes! It's up to Joe and Mac to trek through a series of levels, fighting both man and beast, saving all of the kidnapped cavehookers one by one. 5/10 for comedy, and 1/10 for effort.
This game, being an early SNES title, has pretty mediocre graphics. Things look a little blocky, though nowhere near as rough as an NES game would look. However, two things really bump the score up a lot. One is the sheer graphical comedy that the developers tossed into the game. All the characters have completely insane looking hair and incredibly exaggerated facial expressions (seriously, look at the title screen up above...those guys are freaking the fuck OUT). It really makes the game a lot more enjoyable. The second savior is how well done the bosses were. A few are pretty standard, only being a little bigger than most normal enemies. A few of them, though, are HUGE dinosaurs, so big they can't fit their entire body on screen.
|"I think I have something in my teeth...can you get that for me?"|
Again, for being an early SNES game, these bosses really do look phenomenal. Their movement is a little bit jerky, but otherwise quite impressive.
As I said before, my review might be a bit biased because of nostalgia, but this is a SUPER fun game. It's very basic: run through a level, killing every enemy in your way, reach the boss, kill the boss and rescue the cave babe, go to overworld screen, pick a new level, repeat. Most of the levels are pretty varied, going from outdoorsy areas like the one in the above image to cave levels to waterfall levels to a level that's set entirely inside of one gigantic dinosaur's innards.
The game throws a lot of interesting tools your way to help you in destroying the dinosaur scourge. When you first start, all you have is your trusty (and borderline useless) club. As you progress, you'll find weapon icons scattered throughout the levels. There's one that throws a bone every time you attack, another that throws a boomerang every time you attack, another that throws a ball of fire every time you attack (AWESOME), and the strongest weapon is a wheel that rolls along hugging the contour of the ground, killing most normal enemies in one hit. Once you have a weapon, you keep it, too, cycling through using the Select button.
You have a pretty standard life bar in this game. In the original arcade version, your lifebar would deplete constantly, a la Gauntlet. The SNES version has made things a bit more manageable. Enough hits and you die, turning into an invulnerable angel for a few seconds before you rejoin the corporeal world. Run out of lives and it's game over. If you're short on health, there are meat icons littered throughout the levels. Small ones recover little bits of health and steaks recover large portions.
The overworld map is another noteworthy feature of the SNES port. It wasn't present in the original arcade version. In the arcades, you'd have to play through every level with no breaks in between. In the SNES version, you get to pick your level, sometimes skipping over levels if you want to. There are also keys hidden throughout the levels that open up bonus areas on the main map. Most are quick distractions; meat is falling from the sky and you need to collect it all without letting any hit the ground, or you have to kill a few enemies to save an extra cave babe.
This game also had two different two player modes. In both, one player takes Joe and the other takes Mac. In one mode, there's no 'friendly fire', and in the other, you can beat the bejeesus out of your caveman comrade. When I was a kid, this caused more sibling squabbling then I care to remember between me and my brothers. Half the fun is to see how long it takes to Mortal Kombat the fuck out of your buddy.
The only reason this game gets a 9 instead of a 10 for gameplay is because of the sometimes clunky controls. I realize cavemen weren't exactly Shinobi, but they move incredibly slowly. You'll find yourself dying a ton during sections with a lot of jumping, as well. The cave level with the mammoth as a boss is exceedingly frustrating until you really get the hang of the controls. Pulling off high jumps can be difficult, as can effectively making your chosen cavedude roll along the ground. Trust me, though, it's worth it to master the controls.
The music in Joe and Mac wasn't exactly groundbreaking, but it was really super catchy. It's been over a year since I've played this game, but I can still distinctly remember the boss theme as well as the song that plays through the first level. It gets across the vibe and setting for the game pretty well. The sound effects are a little wonky, though. There's no way to describe the sound it makes when you hit another caveman with your club. I'll just say that no human should ever utter those sorts of noises. Ever. The dinosaur bosses (and the mammoth boss) all have very well done sound effects, though, as do the pterodactyl-based bosses.
Replay Value: 6/10
This is a game you'll go back to maaaaaybe once after you beat it, just for funsies. It's pretty quick to beat all the way through once you've gotten the hang of the controls, so that really ups the replay factor. There's also a hi-score that rests at the top of the screen, although in this game, if you do things right, you'll always end up with very similar scores. This isn't one you'll go back to over and over to try and top your previous score.
Joe and Mac is, in my opinion, totally worth a play. Worst case, you hate it and you never look at it again. It's short enough that you can beat it in an hour. From the looks of a lot of 'official' reviews of this game, it wasn't exactly the Citizen Kane of the video game world. It's no E.T., though. Give it a shot. Who knows? You might find yourself swallowed by the quirky gameplay (and a dinosaur or two).
Don't forget to club the green-haired floozy and drag her back to your hut before you finish.