Thanks to Flying Tiger Entertainment for the review code
Title: Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Joe & Mac Caveman Ninja
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 05/31/2018
In this fifth installment of the Johnny Turbo Arcade series, you take control of the titular characters Joe and Mac as they set out on a prehistoric Quest to save captured girls from a group of evil cavemen!
As per usual, the Johnny Turbo Arcade features grants Caveman Ninja with a bunch of screen filters and two display options, par for the course with no changes. The actual game itself is very colorful and looks akin to future Data East co-op platformers such as Spinmaster in how the UI is displayed. A decent amount of animation is present and the characters are quite expressive whenever they react to something such as the massive bosses, which are usually detailed with good animation as well.
Joe & Mac is pretty much Adventure Island on steroids, with the main goal being to get to the end of each stage, defeat the end boss while collecting fruit along the way to fill up your stamina meter that slowly drains as your progress. Different weapons can be obtained from eggs dropped in parts of each stage, and they replace the default stone axe weapon with more useful items including a pillar of fire, a boomerang and clones of yourself, with a few useful weapons such as a wimpy needle that doesn’t do much damage or range to speak of. One thing that needs to be noted about the game is that the stages are very, very short, only lasting a minute or two at the most before you reach the boss.
When playing solo, the stage length isn’t really a negative as the game actually uses a traditional lives system, instead of making each credit a one-life affair. When you die in single player, you restart from a predetermined checkpoint, which in the case of the boss battles means you’ll be starting from the beginning of the fight every time, forcing you to think of a good strategy to actually beat them without spamming credits, a smart way to teach players the basics of the game. Heck, an embarrassing confession comes from the fact that it took me until my second attempt at playing the game to figure that you can charge up your weapon by holding the A button, which helps significantly against bosses as the added damage makes them recoil and back away for a few seconds. The short stages still manage to be very, very tough and if you don’t have a buddy with you then you might even need to resort to using save states to beat this if you aren’t that good at the bosses, since only a few hits will kill you and send you back a bit.
On the other hand, Co-Op is where this game shines, but also loses a bit of charm. In co-op, you can continue infinitely, right where you left off and dying won’t send you back to a prior checkpoint, thus making the short length of the levels a bit of a problem as you can easily breeze through the game, and even if you limit your continues like I tend to then you can still lose one of your few lives without worrying about getting sent back. The game’s still tough due to the high amount of enemies in the later half of the adventure, but it’s still a blast to play with a friend and it being the more accessible mode if you have a newcomer with you helps a lot as well, but for a pair of two players hoping for a more strategic experience like the single player then you’re out of luck, as once again there’s no way to adjust the DIP Switch settings for this game to make it easier or harder. On the bright side, Joe & Mac features a wide array of branching paths, taking you to a different part of the second half of certain stages, and there’s even one at the end of the game that determines your ending, which makes it very replayable especially if you’ve beaten it once already and want to enjoy the game again, which helps go along with the short length to not make it feel like a drag.
In conclusion, Joe & Mac is a very solid solo-adventure and a tremendously fun co-op platformer, with multiple routes, goofy animations and a short enough game length that provides replay value for those who already beat it and want to check out the other routes without spending too much time getting to them. Those who remember this game from back in the day (which seems to be a surprising amount considering how often I saw this game requested to the developers for porting) will be happy to know that this is still as enjoyable in co-op as ever and easily worth the $8 if you’re into that, but for those hoping for a more solo experience or something longer, then this isn’t really the game for you, unless you dig the way the checkpoint system works in this game and enjoy challenging yourself, as this adventure is really better suited for a buddy. Overall, a pretty solid rerelease, but like with prior JTA games, the addition of dip switch options would have made this a lot better.
I give Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Joe & Mac Caveman Ninja a 7 out of 10.