New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja PlayStation 4 Review

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja is just doing the bare minimum.

By Fragnarok, Posted 11 Dec 2022

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja is a side-scrolling beat 'em up from Mr. Nutz Studio and published by Microids. It is a remake of the arcade classic Joe and Mac released by Data East in the arcades in 1991. Like the original, one dark evening, a rival clan of cavemen has sunk in and kidnapped all women. Now it is up to just Joe and Mac to save the day.

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja|Mr. Nutz Studio|Microids

Players can choose to select either the green-haired Joe or the blue-haired Mac. They are functionally identical, though. In a two-player game, the two can also damage one another. At the start of a level, the heroes are able to throw stone axes in an arc. One can charge up and deliver a more powerful strike by holding the attack button. Scattered around are alternate weapons like flints, clubs, and wheels that all have their own speed and trajectory.

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja does have some odd balancing. Some of the strongest weapons from the old arcade and console versions have been significantly weakened. In most cases, attack power is negligible, with attack speed and arc being much more important. Additionally, since weapon items are so abundant, it is likely many players will simply swap weapons by walking over the icon.

Instead of having a flat-out timer, Joe and Mac will slowly lose health over time. This is compensated by there being a plethora of healing items used to mitigate this hunger mechanic. Still, it isn't enough of a supply to help those who are taking lots of damage, meaning it is still the best strategy to avoid hits in the first place.

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja|Mr. Nutz Studio|Microids

Some food also has secondary functions. For example, hot sauce will cause both temporary invincibility and make the controlled character spew fire all across the screen. Large eggs wind up being a gamble, as they may either produce a fried egg, a random weapon, or even hatch surprise enemies.

Players have a choice of two modes: the classic arcade and a new "extended" arranged mode. Arcade is a faithful remake of the 1991 original. Levels will be crawling with tons of packed enemies, but quickly will lead to boss fights against hulking tyrannosaurs or mutated cavemen. Other sections may be filled with platforming, pits, and other terrain hazards.

Arcade is short overall, designed around the old philosophy of draining patrons' quarters by sheer difficulty instead of length. While there are twelve total levels, some of them are almost immediate boss fights with very few minions. However, the penultimate boss - the Red Serpent - is almost the opposite, with the huge lizard spending more time off-screen while his cronies fly overhead dropping bombs.

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja|Mr. Nutz Studio|Microids

Mr. Nutz Studio hasn't done anything to update the game's 90s humor. Like most of its past arcade releases, New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja contains three endings arbitrarily given depending on the final path players walk after the final boss. The following scenes have themes of sexism, fat shaming, and transphobia. While they are all short, younger generations may find this off-putting.

The extended mode changes stage layout and enemy placement, giving more challenges to seasoned veterans. This can lead to new strategies but also some frustrations. Enemy placement can be even more unforgiving on some levels but also a little too barren at other points. Still, extended has overall more gameplay than the familiar arcade mode has to offer.

The new art style is rather generic, following the same endless sea of so many mobile games. The 1991 game made sure to maintain a hint of Japanese anime aesthetic with large eyes, gender dimorphism, and leafy strand-like hair. Character sprites are just too big, taking up too much screen real estate while not having a clear silhouette. The new brighter color palette also does not have enough contrast, making it harder to parse compared to the original.

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja|Mr. Nutz Studio|Microids

The sound design of New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja is inconsistent. It seems that all resources were focused on the music while including lots of jungle and cartoon-like sounds, which is overall unmemorable. The sound mixing also appears to be too low, with attacks not sounding like they are landing an impact and almost no reaction when anyone takes damage. It is a game that entirely needs to be watched and not heard for cues.

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja doesn't have many bugs. The gameplay itself is smooth and responsive. Oddly, it is instead cutscenes that tend to have sudden slowdowns or choppiness. Perhaps these scenes were rendered and playback at a lower framerate instead of using the PlayStation 4's native hardware.

Outside of extended mode, New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja really doesn't add many new features. There are no adjustments to lives, online multiplayer, alternate difficulty modes, or secrets to unlock. Microids touted a new train and boss rush mode, but neither is present in the base game; these may be future DLC or patches. The only option is to switch languages among common ones like English, Spanish, and French. It really feels like a barebones remake with just a new coat of paint.

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja|Mr. Nutz Studio|Microids

The lack of options also means that there is only one controller layout. While it is fairly common for a cross to jump and square to attack, those who want more customization are out of luck. Additionally, there appears to no longer be a weapon loadout and swap button like there was for SNES and Genesis, though understandable as those weren't in the arcade release either.    

It is easy to contrast New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja to other recent remasters like Wild Arms: Reloaded and Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors. Both of those focused more on balancing, preserving the feel of the original games while making them more engaging to play. Those games also included new playable characters giving a big reason for old fans to try a different fighting style.

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja doesn't seem like it has much interest in pleasing past players who spent time in the arcades or older console ports. The lack of quality-of-life features, new modes, or characters may also put off new players. It is questionable if New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja is the best representation to help breathe new life into the franchise.

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja|Mr. Nutz Studio|Microids

Really the only thing going for the PlayStation 4 version is that it is the single option on the console. The original arcade port is currently only available on Nintendo Switch at a fraction of the price compared to New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja. Since most of the gameplay is similar, those that own both consoles should still consider that release. For those that are only PlayStation 4 users, then New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja still has some merit.

New Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja is just for the desperate who want the same old-school gameplay. Those that have never ventured into the series might not find anything special or unique about this remake. Regardless, any that consider buying the game should highly consider at least an initial price reduction or maybe new updates, if ever.  

Kurtis Seid, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher(s): Microids
Developer(s): Mr. Nutz Studio
Genres: Action
Themes: Sidescroller, beat 'em up, cavean, dinosaur, prehistoric
Release Date: 2022-12-01

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