Overall, I would say that while Joe & Mac is not without flaws, it is worth playing and possibly buying . . . after you’ve already collected the better titles the SNES has to offer.
Sometimes, I find it difficult to decide whether or not to recommend a game. I may find myself very much enjoying the game, but then I get tripped up by a few problems that tarnish an otherwise pleasant experience. This was the case with Joe & Mac, a game that was released early into the life of the Super Nintendo.
I remember thinking how impressive this game was visually when it was first released. The characters and backgrounds are colorful and well defined. Boss enemies are often huge and are, for the most part, appropriate for the stone age setting (I wasn’t really sold on the bees—always an annoyance when they appear in video games—and the final boss seemed very much out of place). Some of the bosses repeat, such as the dinosaur from the first level and the pterodactyl, though their attacks vary enough to differentiate the battles.
The levels in Joe & Mac seem very short, and you may be surprised at how quickly you encounter a boss after beginning a level. The levels themselves are chosen from an overhead map similar to Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, but the path to the end is very linear. Sometimes during a level, you will crack open a dinosaur egg (generally the means of acquiring items), and a pink pterodactyl will hatch and take you to a bonus area. In the bonus areas, you can collect meat to replenish health, weapons, extra lives, and keys to unlock special areas which branch off the main path on the overhead map. You will have to decide where you want to use your keys, and the payoff can be as good as giving you extra lives, or it can be as lame as giving you an enemy to fight.
For the most part, Joe & Mac is not a difficult game. The enemies are generally easy to defeat, and you will likely find yourself losing more lives because you fell into a pit than you do from being attacked by foes. This can get very frustrating, especially in later stages when precise jumps are stopped short by enemies appearing suddenly from offscreen.
One of my major complaints is that the game’s difficulty is unbalanced, and you may find yourself breezing through the game until you near the end, where suddenly a combination of cheap hits from enemies, missed jumps, and harder bosses deplete the stock of lives you built up. Obviously, the game should be more difficult near the end, but it really doesn’t feel like there is a progression in Joe & Mac. The last couple of levels seem to bombard you suddenly with perilous jumps and unavoidable hits.
So, now the now comes the important question—do I recommend Joe & Mac? On the one hand, the game is nice to look at and fun to play. On the other hand, the short levels and the cheapness of later levels make the experience less than exemplary. Overall, I would say that while Joe & Mac is not without flaws, it is worth playing and possibly buying . . . after you’ve already collected the better titles the SNES has to offer.
Recommended (with some reservations)