Review – New Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja

I never thought that Microids, the folks behind the acclaimed Syberia franchise and a ton of licensed shovelware, would eventually become one of the forefronts of reviving old gaming franchises to a new audience. Granted, they are not Dotemu levels of brilliant in this regard (the less we talk about the XIII remake, the better), but between a new Arkanoid, an upcoming sequel to Flashback, and the revival of Toki, they’ve been doing a commendable work. The effort is worth praising. Their latest revival attempt is an amusing one. Remember Joe & Mac? Well, Microids is publishing a new Joe & Mac.

New Joe & Mac Graphics

New Joe & Mac is gorgeous, even if it’s prone to a few framerate issues here and there.

For the uninitiated, Joe & Mac is an arcade platformer franchise developed and published by Data East back in the early 90s. It stars two cavemen in their epic journey to save some cavewomen from a rival tribe. In the meantime, they have to deal with a ton of brutes, dinosaurs, and a crippling hunger that has them lose health points just by existing, which can only be partially recovered by consuming copious amounts of food. These games were the typical arcade platformers of the day, made for people who thought that Ghosts n’ Goblins was a relaxing experience. A quarter muncher in the most pristine sense of the word, it was tough as nails, unfair, but it was charming enough to make you want to play yet another round.

New Joe & Mac is the same thing, just with some new visuals and a brand new mode, which is just a series of new levels retaining the same gameplay loop. Love it or hate it, Microids and developer Mr. Nutz (best studio name ever) stuck to the series’ roots in a surprisingly faithful way. It’s still beyond unfair, with the hunger meter taking a chunk of your health every few seconds, and the slight touch of an enemy removing even more health from your already paltry life reserves. Trial and error is the name of the game. New Joe & Mac wants you to constantly replay levels, figure out enemy patterns, and deal with its unfair mechanics in order to succeed. Or you can bring in a friend and split the pain evenly. Local co-op is indeed a plus.

New Joe & Mac Hunger

This hunger meter is the pinnacle of unfair.

What makes this game stand out is its presentation, not its (dated by design) gameplay. New Joe & Mac retains the same art style seen in Mr Nutz’s previous outing, the excellent Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All, albeit without the same level of extra care. Some animations are a bit wonky, and the game is prone to framerate issues. With that being said, it’s still really freaking pleasing to the eyes, be it on docked or portable modes. The soundtrack is just, well… it’s there, I guess. I can’t say it offended me, nor did it impress me. The original Joe & Mac didn’t have an epic soundtrack either, so it’s not like the developers had a fantastic source material to work with in the first place.

New Joe & Mac Boomerang

Yes Mac, a boomerang to the ankle will surely kill this gigantic dinosaur.

New Joe & Mac reminded me a lot of Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection. It has its audience of retro arcade platformer enthusiasts who will be drawn towards gorgeous visuals and what they call “challenging gameplay”, but at the end of the day, it’s a brutally unfair game filled to the brim with difficulty-increasing mechanics implemented in order to extend its duration. It has its charm, I won’t lie, especially with these gorgeous visuals, but this isn’t the easiest of recommendations. You really need to absolutely adore brutally unfair platformers from the 90s in order to have some joy with this one.


Graphics: 8.5

Mr. Nutz has delivered yet another gorgeous playable cartoon with New Joe & Mac, but the game is prone to annoying framerate drops.

Gameplay: 7.0

It is simple to control, but not exactly the most intuitive of platformers. Your character is slow, frail, and constantly loses health due to an unfair hunger mechanic that cannot be turned off.

Sound: 6.0

The soundtrack, well, is here. It’s not bad, it’s not good. It gets the job done with little fanfare. It’s not like the original Joe & Mac game had a memorable soundtrack to begin with.

Fun Factor: 6.0

Tailor made for an audience that enjoys brutally unfair platformers meant to be replayed over and over until you learn the movement patterns of every enemy onscreen. It’s not an easy recommendation. That being said, local co-op is a plus.

Final Verdict: 7.0

New Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on nintendo Switch.

A copy of New Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja was provided by the publisher.