Co-op is a concept that’s been around for much longer than people think. Maybe it was not executed with the same objective oriented gameplay like present titles, but still it was co-op nonetheless. Arcades were full of co-op games, coming in different varieties and genres. Data East developed, what might have been, my first co-op based game I’ve ever played; Joe and Mac. These two heroic cavemen were my first introduction to the concept of cooperative play, and although I was still a kid, I cherish the memories offered in this comical co-op experience.Joe and Mac was first introduced to the public in arcades back in 1991. Data East later ported this caveman platformer over to SNES, and this is where I was properly introduced. I remember my initial attraction to the game wasn’t its co-op feature but how colorful it was. Joe and Mac is a game based on two heroic cavemen that embark on a journey to save a group of women that were kidnapped by rival cavemen. I know it sounds barbaric and maybe even a little sexist. All sexist back-stories aside, Joe and Mac did a lot of things right; entertaining gameplay, vibrant visuals, comical story and more importantly they had an extremely well developed co-op feature.
The gameplay for Joe and Mac was platform based. You did a fair amount of jumping around, as well as occasionally bashing prehistoric creatures and cavemen alike. One major flaw in this game has to be the jumps. The jumping itself isn’t the problem, as I found the controls to be sufficient, for the most part. The real issue was in some of the platforms you had to jump on. Some platforms were designed at weird angles and in other occasions the spacing between platforms were just ridiculously far apart. Although this did not occur often, it still provided some rather frustrating moments, especially with health and lives coming few and far in between. I don’t want this to discourage you from playing though, as this game proves to be a good time even with its faults.
The weapons in this game are unique and fits well within the caveman theme. Your most basic weapon being bones that you chuck at your enemies, but you can find upgrades that change your weapon to things like a boomerang or a wheel. The enemies themselves are fun and pose an almost comical aspect, well at least when you hit them with an object and they fall to the ground. They can become overwhelming however, and I think this is where the co-op becomes important. With a friend, you guys can go on a prehistoric bashing and beat down the hordes of enemies. But the portion of the game that proved to be the most entertaining with a friend is Joe and Mac’s epic boss battles. Fighting a T-Rex or even taking on a Pterodactyl, is both fun and different. It’s Never a dull moment and is always full of laughs, along side heart dropping moments.
The sounds in the game are not memorable and don’t really offer any catchy effects or music. That’s not to say they were bad, because, compared to other games of that era, it had a decent sound quality. Maybe its just me but my standards for games and their OST are pretty high, so that’s possibly why Joe and Mac didn’t get a high amount of praise in that department by me.
The visuals were nice and the developers did not try and over do it. Each level featured different color palates that agreed with each individual theme. Aside from its vibrant colors, the level designs were great. They did a good job making sure each level not only felt different, but looked different too. This helps players get lost in the game and, as a kid with my friends, it was easy to point out the backgrounds and just stare in awe.
Joe and Mac was the first co-op game I ever played, and although the standards for co-op have changed since then, it still offered some interactive co-op gameplay. The fact that it was easy to jump into and the overwhelming amount of enemies involved, both justified and expanded the co-op experience. Even though this caveman platformer was released in 1991, I still see it as a great example of how co-op should be played.