New Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja (PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, X/S, PC)

Data East is no longer around, but back in the day, they were a pretty major player in the arcade and game console scene.  Some of their games include Burgertime, Karnov, Bad Dudes, and many more.  Another one of their more popular titles was Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja.  It was a pretty standard 2-D platformer, but the bright colors, huge dino bosses, and cartoony animated sprites really stood out at the time.  The arcade game got ported to many of the 8- and 16-bit consoles at the time, each one a different take on the series.  Later they would make a spinoff on the SNES called Congo’s Caper, and then a true sequel with Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics, which had more adventure elements.  After that there was another arcade game called Joe & Mac Returns, but I never saw it.  It was a single screen action game like Bubble Bobble, and played like Tumble Pop, another Data East game.  And now there’s New Joe & Mac: Cavemen Ninja, a remake of the original classic arcade game with hand drawn visuals and other extras.  Those nasty Neanderthals have kidnapped all the cavewomen in the village, and it’s up to Joe & Mac to save them!  It’s available on all current consoles and PC, but reviewed on PS4 here.

You can play as Joe (or Mac in two player).  First thing to know is that you’ll ALWAYS want to play in two player.  When you are alone, if you die you’ll have to start the whole stage over.  But with two players, you can start right where you left off as long as the other player is there, so it’s much less frustrating.  Joe and Mac can run and jump, and do a higher spin jump if you press up while jumping.  Pick up fruit to refill your energy, and nab stone sculptures of weapons to get new throwing tools.  You’ll start out with an axe, but can get arrowheads, fire, wheels, and more.  You can even hold down the attack button to wind up a throw, and then release a larger, more powerful version of that weapon.  You’ll defeat all manner of cavemen, dinosaurs, and large prehistoric bosses in this colorful, cartoony platformer.  There are two modes of play.  Arcade mode recreates the levels and layout from the arcade version.  But the levels in the arcade were super short, so if you want longer levels with a more fulfilling experience, try Extra mode.

The main problem I had with this one is that the game is WAY too hard.  I don’t remember if the original arcade version was this hard, but I know the console ones sure weren’t.  I rented the first Joe & Mac game back on the SNES and remember beating it, but I can’t even get past the first level in single player in this one.  It’s a bit better in two player mode, but even then you get limited continues.  When you buy a home console game based on an arcade title, they should give you unlimited continues since you bought the whole game anyway and it’s not like you just spent a quarter on it.  And while I normally like hand drawn graphics, here they look a bit lifeless and blend too easily into the background visuals so it makes it hard to know when you get hit.  I liked the original sprite work better.  I think I would’ve rather had a collection of all the old Joe & Mac games instead of this.

Kid Factor:

New Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, and Mild Suggestive Themes.  I didn’t notice any blood, but you can bonk all manner of cartoony cavemen and dinosaurs with silly prehistoric weapons.  The Neanderthals drag the cavewomen by their hair, and the cavewomen kiss you when you save them at the end of each level.  Is that considered suggestive?  Anyway, reading skill is helpful, but not necessary just to play, and younger gamers may get frustrated at the high difficulty.

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