Approximate Release Date: January 7, 1992
Developer: Data East
Publisher: Data East
I’m as surprised as anyone to find that Joe & Mac holds up okay after 22 years.
It’s also surprising how great Joe & Mac looks. Everything is bright and colorful, and characters are large and detailed with animations that convey a decent amount of cartoon-like humor and personality; enemies look panicked when running away, or their eyes will bulge out when hit. This is something that would become very standard – if not overdone – in Super Nintendo platformers as we continue through the system’s catalog, but it was novel here because this wasn’t really possible in the more technically limited NES.
The game’s bosses aren’t anything special; big and well animated but boring to fight. But it’s still cool to walk over a sleeping dinosaur in a stage and have that same dinosaur try to eat you at the end of the level.
Actually playing Joe & Mac is a mixed bag. The controls are on the stiff side, but it’s not really an issue generally. Only when the game demands precision platforming or dodging bosses’ attacks does it get annoying. But the powerups help in this regard; they turn Joe and Mac’s melee attacks into ranged ones, so the muddy controls don’t really matter as long as you can keep your distance and find safe spots.
One very small mechanical twist I like is the jumping. By pressing B, you’ll do a bog-standard jump. But by holding up and jumping, you’ll do a much higher jump that gives Joe or Mac a lower profile at the cost of some maneuverability. Having two different jumps with some slight pros and cons is a neat addition.
Joe & Mac is pretty good early SNES platformer, but it’s made better with a buddy. But either way, it’s worth checking out. Maybe you’ll be as surprised as I was!
As an aside, the wonderful Retronauts podcast recently devoted an entire episode to Joe & Mac. It’s well worth a listen!
Tomorrow: Winner of the award for worst franchise name is … Ys, with Ys III: Wanderers from Ys!