Joe & Mac: A Prehistoric Blast from the Past

When I was a duckling, my parents were responsible for buying all the games for the SNES.  After all, my dad actually got it as some sort of gift from his workplace, and for some inexplicable reason, I was too “afraid” to play any of the games when I was especially young, meaning my parents got the most use out of our first family console.  As such, Joe & Mac was just one of a hearty collection of games my parents had accumulated over the years.  This game stars the titular cavemen (Mac is only available in two-player), who fight and jump their way through 12 stages swarming with dinosaurs and Neanderthals, each level ending with a climactic battle against some huge prehistoric baddy.

As already stated, I didn’t give this game a chance until years later, when the Nintendo 64 took over as the main gaming console and the SNES was relocated to the basement TV, where I could now play games to my heart’s content without having to share TV time with my parents.  I worked my way slowly through the now substantial collection of games on offer, and when I came to Joe & Mac, my feelings were mixed.

On the surface, the game has colorful graphics, pretty decent character sprites, and a catchy soundtrack that gets stuck in my head to this day.  And the large creatures one battled at the end of every stage certainly added to the excitement.  Nevertheless, I was usually not the biggest fan of this game.  In fact, my mom and I both agreed that the game had a rather creepy vibe.  I mean, multiple bosses have long necks made of circles, which is probably just to aid in animation, but it never failed to weird me out.  Also, there’s a mammoth whose trunk falls off, which has disturbed me to this day.

Dinosaurs aren’t the only things trying to kill you

Nevertheless, despite the weird vibes Joe & Mac has always given me, that didn’t stop me from repeatedly trying to complete this game, which has no save points and will boot you back to the beginning once you run out of continues.  You see, it just doesn’t sit right with me to leave a game unfinished, so I would play over and over again, getting just a bit farther each time.  I eventually got stuck at the ankylosaurus, finally succeeded, only to reach another roadblock at the dinosaur graveyard.  Once I overcame that stage, it wasn’t long before I finally beat the game for the first time, followed by a second time when mom and I tried a co-op playthrough.

With Joe & Mac complete, I assumed there was no reason to ever revisit it.  Until the game was added to Nintendo Switch Online, and I was tempted to play again and record this odd childhood experience for YouTube.  After all these years, would I confirm that Joe & Mac was merely some forgettable platformer from the early 90’s or was it…perhaps, just a bit better than I had previously given it credit for?

Honestly, my most recent playthrough of this game left me feeling much more positive.  Maybe it’s nostalgia speaking or maybe the addition of suspend points served to make the game more entertaining.  Or perhaps after trying out many of the retro games on offer on Nintendo Switch Online, most of which were lackluster at best, I’ve been granted a much greater appreciation for Joe & Mac.

Thanks to the suspend points and all my past practice, my time revisiting Joe & Mac was actually quite fun (about 1-1.5 hours, to be more precise).  Fighting those big boss enemies at the end of each level was entertaining and required some skill, but not so much that someone with my slow reflexes can’t succeed.  Plus, the game no longer “creeps me out”, for lack of a better phrase, with the exception of that mammoth.  I’ll never recover from that.

Video from YouTube User: Virtual Bastion

If you’re a fan of retro platformers and have Nintendo Switch Online, then I’d highly recommend giving this game a try.  I can’t speak for the sequel,  Lost in the Tropics, since I only played about 15 minutes, but the original is a surprisingly good time, especially for a game from a rather obscure series.

Who here has played Joe & Mac or any of the sequels?  And if so, did you find that mammoth battle disturbing or is it just me?

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