mullet mad jack

Mullet Mad Jack Review – Blade Run ‘N Gunner

Kick, shoot, it's all in the mind.

The year is 2090 and over a span of decades the corporate machine, together with social media’s tireless march for the attention span of the masses, has birthed a new age of humanity – Homo Media. Driven by a constant need for entertainment, the people have devised a new type of game, one where “Moderators,” poor souls unable to live more than 10 seconds without a hit of dopamine, hunt robots for sport on livestream. As the titular Jack, your role in this vile era is that of a Moderator, and your mission is to rescue an aqua-haired ‘princess’ from the clutches of a robotic billionaire with a golden bullet for a head. Oh, and you’re rocking one hell of a mullet.

Just ten seconds idling on the title screen will tell you almost everything you need to know about Mullet Mad Jack. The early 90s anime sequence complete with VHS-style filter and saxophone-infused electronic beats makes for a pixel-precise vibe check. “You must be this tall to ride,” it says, only instead of any unit of measurement the scale is a collage of Evangelion video tapes, big box copies of DOOM and Robocop action figures. The only real way to describe what occurs in the hours following is with this:

thrillho

While Mullet Mad Jack’s core gameplay inspirations pull from a similar slice of time as its aesthetics, it also bears a few hallmarks of modern gaming. Broadly, the best way I could describe it is a cocktail of boomer shooters, roguelites, Free Lives’ upcoming Anger Foot and Hotline Miami. But where that last example cast players as a glass cannon of sorts, Jack is more of a lead egg timer, practically invincible but always just seconds away from the end. Each floor you cross as you attempt to climb Nakamura Tower to your ultimate prize (a very hot pair of sneakers, of course) is a race against your 10-second body clock, where slaying ‘bots is the only way to delay death.

To put it in more plain terms, your health is your timer in Mullet Mad Jack and executing enemies keeps it topped up as you dash to the elevator on each floor. The tools you have to achieve this are the gun you walked in with, the environment around you and the bottom of your foot, turning each new room into an exercise in killer time management and reflexes as you decide whose head to blow off, who to kick into a nearby death trap and how best to do it while dodging obstacles in record time and with pinpoint accuracy. 

mullet mad jack

In motion it looks positively chaotic and frantically challenging, but behind the keyboard and mouse (or controller) it’s surprisingly easy to get into the rhythm – and absolutely intoxicating. As someone whose skill with fast-paced shooters can be summed up as “none,” the speed at which I found myself cracking multiple headshots as soon as I walked into each room, lining up environmental kills, using my limited close-range finishers as a big top-up to my time and fanging it across bottomless pits and through deadly lasers made me feel like I was transcending the limits of human capability. In reality, it’s all just extremely well-designed.

Each floor of the tower crams a full 90s FPS level’s worth of gameplay into less than a minute, and most of the game’s chapters take place across 10 floors with the caveat that dying resets you back to the start of a chapter. You’ll also earn a new upgrade for every floor crossed, with things as simple as boosted movement speed or damage, or as ridiculous as “nutshot” bonuses and added Duke Nukem-style vocal quips. These aren’t persistent, resetting either when you die or when you cross over to the next chapter, though finishing chapters does award a series of more permanent ones.

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mullet mad jack

One thing that works hugely in the game’s favour is the way that the randomly-generated layouts on each floor always feel organically set up to make your progress through them feel like a rollercoaster of bad-ass-ery and fraught tension, where you’ll spend long portions fighting for precious seconds only to be rewarded with a string of room-clearing explosions as a reward.

The only downside to this whole setup is that, even with a campaign runtime of a mere couple of hours at most, the repetition does make itself feel known after a while. It’s almost a necessary sacrifice – things move at such a blisteringly-fast pace that having to re-learn visual cues or major mechanics part way through could be a nightmare – but it’s noticeable. The game does introduce a few new things to watch out for here or there over time, and some of the bosses that lie in wait at the ends of chapters make for huge departures and very entertaining surprises, but by the time I finished the game and decided to brave the added “Endless” mode a tiny bit of that initial wow factor had worn off. Though, that could also just be due to how gnarly the campaign’s finale is. Holy shit.

mullet mad jack

And honestly, it would take a whole lot more than a bit of repetition to dilute the impact of this game, given it bears one of the most striking presentations I’ve seen in a good while. Though you’re moving through 3D environments, so much of the game is made from animated 2D assets to make it look like you’re genuinely running and gunning through a classic anime, and everything from menus to loading screens and cutscenes are all made with the same constant slew of references to the most garish parts of 80s and 90s media and insane amounts of on-screen energy. Naturally, the game’s soundtrack is also bliss from beginning to end for anyone that’s attuned to the mix of dreamy synthwave and pulse-pounding beats that you’d expect from a project like this.

Even the optional tutorial menu is a mix of completely over-the-top and entirely appropriate, giving players an interactive unboxing experience of a classic “big box” PC game with all of its anachronistic flourishes like primitive DRM that involved spinning cardboard wheels to find codes.

mullet mad jack

It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a nice amount of attention afforded to accessibility in Mullet Mad Jack, with multiple difficulty levels that allow you to choose more or less maximum seconds for survival or even remove the time pressure entirely if you just want to smash shit and enjoy the story. There’s plenty of consideration for control options, display support, YouTube-friendly changes to gore and a number of ways to tone down things like screen shaking and flashing, which are all great things to have access to in a game like this.

mullet mad jack
Conclusion
Mullet Mad Jack is a blistering, balls-to-the-wall throwback to 90s anime and violent, dystopian sci-fi that marries boomer shooters with speedrunning and roguelike aspirations to form an absolutely intoxicating brew. It's short, and there's not much to keep you invested even with infinite floors to climb, but you'll be having a good fucking time while you're in it.
Positives
A killer gameplay concept executed to perfection
Visual and soundtrack are a nostalgic sensory explosion
Packed with neat 90s references and gags
Good amount of approachability and accessibility settings
Superbly-executed finale
Negatives
Could have used a dash more variety
Somewhat light on content overall
8.5