Joe and Mac
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developers:
    • Data East (ARC/SNES)
    • Eden (GEN)
    • New World Computing (IBM)
    • Elite (NES)
    • MotiveTime (AMI/GB)
  • Publishers:
    • Data East (ARC/SNES/IBM/NES/GB)
    • UK Elite (SNES/IBM/AMI/NES/GB)
    • Takara (GEN)
    • Brazil Tec Toy (GEN)
  • Released:
    ARC/GEN/IBM
    • 1991
    SNES
    • JP 12/06/1991
    • US January 1992
    • UK 1992
    AMI
    • 1992
    NES
    • US December 1992
    • UK 1992
    GB
    • US June 1993
    • UK 1993
Score: 70%

This review was published on 07/27/2017.

Joe and Mac is a side-scrolling platform video game by Data East. It was originally released as a coin operated arcade game in 1991 under the title of Caveman Ninja. Later that year, Data East ported the game to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, whereas Eden Entertainment Software ported it to the Sega Genesis and New World Computing made a version for IBM PCs. In 1992, MotiveTime developed an Amiga port and Elite Systems did one for the Nintendo Entertainment System. MotiveTime also ported the game to the Game Boy in 1993. The arcade, SNES, IBM, NES, and Game Boy versions of the game were published by Data East in North America, while Elite Systems published those same versions in Europe. Lastly, Takara published the Genesis version in North America and Tec Toy published it in Brazil. Most of the home versions of the game are called Joe and Mac, sometimes using Caveman Ninja as a subtitle. The name change is probably due to the fact that, while the game does contain cavemen, it doesn't have any ninjas in it. Why it was ever called Caveman Ninja in the first place is a mystery. Regardless, this game is nothing special, but I'm going to review it anyway.

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Back in the distant past, when "rock and roll" was just "rock" and "fast food" was dinner you couldn't catch, there lived two cavemen. As indicated by the title of most versions of the game, these two cavemen are named Joe and Mac. Whether it was dinosaur demolition derbies or pterodactyl hang gliding, life for the boys was pretty good. That is, until one particularly bogus night. While everyone was asleep in Mac and Joe's home village, a rival tribe of cavemen snuck in and stole all their women. I mean, all their women! We're talking every last one. Well, it's more like they said "we're taking every last one," but you get the idea. Obviously, this bold act of cowardice doesn't sit well with Joe and Mac, so they decide to stand up and go on an adventure to reclaim their beautiful babes. As you can see, the game doesn't take itself too seriously.

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You control either Joe or Mac on this prehistoric adventure, depending on whether you're the first or second player. Yes, a second player can jump in at virtually any time. Regardless of who you're using, Joe and Mac can do the standard platformer stuff of running, jumping, and ducking. What's not so standard is the fact that they can do an extra high jump if up is held while jumping. Another thing that's not too standard is your health meter. Similar to most of Hudson's Adventure Island games, your health meter in the arcade incarnation of Joe and Mac will deplete over time, even if you aren't being hit by enemies. Getting hit by enemies does make your health go down even faster, though. To remedy this, you'll have to do like in Adventure Island by constantly collecting food dropped by felled foes. While annoying, this is ultimately not too big of a deal, as your health ticks down rather slowly. Speaking of slow, while the controls certainly do work, Joe and Mac's slow movements make the game rather frustrating to play.

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While Joe and Mac can stomp foes, they primarily attack with weapons. The weapon system is something else this game has in common with Adventure Island. Joe and Mac can swap their currently held weapon with whatever they find on their journey. All weapons consist of projectiles, like throwing axes that travel in a curved arc, stone wheels that roll around, wooden boomerangs that return to their thrower, and hot fire. Most weapons can be aimed upwards if up is held while pressing the attack button. Additionally, holding the attack button will cause Joe or Mac to wildly swing their arm around, charging up a more powerful strike. However, if they charge for too long, they'll become fatigued. This is pretty bad, because not only does this momentarily stun them, it also causes them to lose some health. It's a risk worth taking, though, as charged attacks inflict more damage and have a wider radius. The weapon system is pretty simple, but there's nothing particularly wrong with it.

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As usual, the goal of each stage is to reach the end. All the environments are caveman oriented, featuring jungles, mountaintops, waterfalls, volcanoes, icy caverns, and other similar locations. The enemies are also prehistoric themed, though they're far less varied than the environments, being that they're almost entirely comprised of cavemen. There are some dinosaurs and other critters in their midst, but the enemy variety is still kind of lacking. Some stages also have you riding on dinosaurs, which doesn't change much from a game play standpoint, but is kind of fun. In the arcade version, you can choose between multiple paths at the end of some levels, giving the game a little bit of replay value. However, despite all this and the good graphics, the stages themselves are somewhat bland. They're basically all straight lines filled with the same two enemies, offering very little outside of the pretty visuals.

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Unsurprisingly, each stage concludes with a big boss battle in order to rescue a damsel in distress. Bosses generally consist of dinosaurs, though occasionally they'll be something else, like a giant carnivorous plant. The boss battles themselves are, like the stages, pretty bland. There is a bright side the bosses, though. After beating most bosses, either Joe or Mac will get a kiss from the distressed damsel. Who gets the kiss is dependent on who did the most damage during the fight, adding a tiny bit of competition to the cooperative play. There are also three endings depending on what path is selected after beating the final boss. The good ending has Joe and Mac being chased by a swarm of gorgeous girls, whereas the lesser endings have them either being chased by an obese woman or a homosexual caveman. It's all delightfully silly.

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There are differences between the different versions of the game, some of which are quite big. For instance, the SNES version is pretty different from the arcade original, as it lengthens many levels and adds a map screen to the game. There are also hidden keys that unlock gates on the map that lead to bonus areas, though the game is still mostly linear. Other alterations include the starting weapon being changed into a short ranged club, the addition of a roll attack that's executed by double tapping forward, the removal of the ability to charge weapons, and you don't automatically lose health over time. There are even more subtle changes, but those are the main ones. The Genesis port is more faithful to the original arcade release, except it has slightly inferior graphics. The IBM PC and Amiga ports aren't bad, either, though they both have inferior sound and the Amiga one suffers from a limited color palette. Conversely, the NES and Game Boy versions are huge downgrades, being inferior in every way possible. In short, the arcade original looks and plays the best, but the SNES version is still worth checking out due to its unique content.

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Aside from the good graphics, there's not much that stands out about this game. With mediocre controls and bland stages, Joe and Mac is a step below most of the platforming greats. It's not horribly bad, nor is it terribly good. Average is the best word to describe Joe and Mac. This game is a lot like junk food. It's fine to snack on every now and then, but it doesn't compare to a gourmet meal. Still, the game can be fun when played with two people.

Word Count: 1,342

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