Joe and Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Data East
  • Publishers:
    • JP US Data East
    • UK Elite
  • Released:
    • JP 02/18/1994
    • US April 1994
    • UK November 1995
Score: 75%

This review was published on 08/02/2017.

Joe and Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Data East for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom. It was originally published by Data East in Japan on February 18, 1994, and North America in April 1994. Elite Systems published the game in Europe in November 1995. In Europe, the game's title is Joe and Mac 3: Lost in the Tropics. The reason for this discrepancy is because the sequel to the first Joe and Mac, known as Congo's Caper in North America and Europe, is totally unlike any other game in the series. As a result of that, North America doesn't acknowledge Congo's Caper as part of the Joe and Mac series, but the other regions do. In Japan, the game is known as Tatakae Genshijin 3: Shuyaku wa Yappari Joe and Mac, which very roughly translates to Fighting Cavemen 3: Of Course the Lead Roles are Joe and Mac. This is poking fun at the fact that Congo's Caper didn't star Joe and Mac. Whether you consider it the second or third game in the series, Lost in the Tropics has far more in common with the original Joe and Mac than Congo's Caper. It's a lot better, too.

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Despite the European title, this game sees the return of the titular Joe and Mac in their second adventure. Set way back in the Stone Age, Joe and Mac are two cavemen heroes who are too cool for school. That's okay, because school didn't exist back then. Anyway, the story begins with a burly caveman sneaking into Kali Village in the dead of night to steal a crown. This is similar to the intro of the first game, where a bunch of Neanderthals snuck into Joe and Mac's home village to steal all the beautiful damsels. There are still damsels in this game, but they aren't in distress. Joe and Mac arrive at the village to find out the news about the stolen crown. Apparently, this crown belongs to the chief of the village, and the caveman that stole it is named Gork. In order to reclaim the crown from Gork, Joe and Mac must go on a perilous journey to collect the seven rainbow stones. Can they do it? Well, that's up to you.

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The first thing you'll notice about this game is that it's a huge graphical improvement over the previous two. It even looks better than the arcade version of the original Joe and Mac despite the SNES hardware not being as good as a proper arcade machine. The character and enemy sprites are large, detailed, colorful, and well animated. However, the best looking things in the game are the foregrounds and backgrounds. In addition to their lush colors and intricate details, the backgrounds and foregrounds have many layers of parallax scrolling to them. This creates a sense of visual depth to the environments, making them look less flat. The landforms also tend to slope upwards and downwards to give a very organic feel to the world. Running through such beautiful environments is definitely the main highlight of the game. Unfortunately, the rest of the game isn't quite as impressive.

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Like the first game, you control either Joe alone or Joe and Mac together. Unlike Congo's Caper, two people can play the game simultaneously in a cooperative manner. It doesn't matter who you control, though, because both characters play the same. The d-pad allows you to walk around, crouch, and climb things like ropes, whereas the B button makes you jump and the Y button is for attacking things. Holding L or R while moving will make you run. Your default weapon is a short ranged club that can be swung upwards if up is held while attacking. It's also possible to do a rapid punch attack that strikes in multiple directions simultaneously, though it's not a terribly useful maneuver. Other than that, the controls are on point. Joe and Mac don't move as quickly as Congo, but they control far better in this game than in the first one.

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Unlike the first Joe and Mac, there aren't many other weapons besides the standard wooden club. Occasionally, you'll find other melee weapons, like spiked clubs or stone hammers. These are all basically more powerful versions of the club that shoot out blue projectile waves when swung. Spiked clubs shoot one projectile at a time while hammers shoot two, making hammers the best. Your weapon does revert back to the regular club when you die, though. Additionally, Joe and Mac can eat life restoring foods by pressing down on the d-pad while next to them. What's unique about this, however, is that they're able to use the leftovers as harmful projectiles by spitting them out at enemies. For instance, eating roasted meat allows Joe and Mac to spit bones out for a while, fruits let them spit out a few seeds, and hot peppers make them breathe fire for a short period of time. It's a fairly neat concept.

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Upon beating the somewhat lengthy opening stage, you'll arrive at a map screen. It's a bit different from the map screen seen in the SNES version of the first Joe and Mac, because you can actually freely walk around this one. From this map screen, you're free to select and revisit stages. Outside of the first and last ones, you're able to do the stages in a totally nonlinear order. However, each stage is still fairly linear. On that note, the stage design in this game is much better than the previous ones, as there's more variety this time around. One bit has you jumping over pits inside a stone cart that's moving at breakneck speeds, another makes you hold onto ropes to stay safe from avalanches, and there's a part where you duck to avoid being blown away by the wings of a massive pterodactyl. Sometimes you'll ride friendly dinosaurs like a pterodactyl that can fly around and shoot projectiles from its mouth, but you lose them in only one hit. The stages aren't amazing, but they're decent.

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You can actually explore villages in this game, which you couldn't do in any of the previous titles. Like the stages, villages are entered from the map screen. Once inside a village, you'll be able to enter the various huts by hitting the stone gongs in front of them with your club. Villages allow you to converse with villagers, get passwords to continue the game at a later date, use a telescope to view other locations from afar, and buy stuff using stone wheels obtained from felled foes. Besides meats that replenish health, you can buy flowers and remodel the interiors of Joe and Mac's homes. As odd as interior decorating is, what's even odder is the fact that flowers give Joe or Mac a random chance to win a woman's hand in marriage. Once wed, the wives will stay at the heroes' homes and eventually give birth to children if you buy them enough flowers. Aside from slightly changing the ending, this is pointless. These life simulation mechanics are rather out of place for a game like this, though they don't really detract from the experience.

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None of the Joe and Mac games are particularly outstanding, but Lost in the Tropics is the closest one to achieving that status. It's easily the best game in the Joe and Mac series, boasting the best graphics, music, controls, and stage design of them all. The music's not half bad, either. While a bit bewildering, the lightweight life simulation elements neither add nor take anything away from the game. Lost in the Tropics still isn't out of this world, but it's a decent game. If you only opt to play one of the Joe and Mac games, definitely make it this one.

Word Count: 1,321

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