Joe & Mac Returns, the rare Caveman Ninja suite at Tumblepop

Parasol Stars, Tumblepop ou Snow Bros. These are the first games that come to mind when you think of the heirs (with slight variations) of the iconic formula launched by this Bubble Bobble from the Taito Corporation in 1986.

However, few people remember that the legendary Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja of Data East received an exclusive subsequent delivery of arcade games, under the name of Joe & Mac Returns, who immersed himself in this style on the basis of Tumblepop from Data East released in 1991. It was a change that collided and had no continuity, so we want to remember this classic with a retro-analysis.

A comeback that has completely changed style

It is still curious, precisely, that in this Tumblepop there would be guests from Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja, like enemy cavemen or carnivorous plants, Data East had the aesthetics and mechanics at hand to adapt this classic arcade game with a twist of Snow Bros. And so it was.

Anyone who has played such games knows perfectly well what was here, being a quite dignified and agile alternative in relation to their s*x. Only some techniques from the original were missed, such as not being able to charge the attack to make it more devastating or the power ups in Joe & Mac Returns were extremely limited in comparison.

There was a rather shocking aspect, because every time we beat a boss, we were given a light up… Which disappeared during the transition to the next phase. While this class of activators was not used properly in normal stages, it was almost always due to the time it took to get out or because we were dependent on damsels in distress.

We had to be very careful with them, because if we gave them suddenly we were stunned and thrown several meters further, to see how they disappeared later. The spicy touch, but in an innocent and parody way, came at the end of each region, seeing how Joe and Mac brought out their lower intuition for the Chicho quake. A few short scenes to ease the tensions.

Although Joe & Mac Returns didn’t risk it the least

And why the attack mechanic chose Data East with this sequel that looked more like a spin off of Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja from 1991? Well, stun the enemies with a loud noise that created a flash of fire a few yards away, so that if we passed them in this state, we put them in a bag. And if we reprimanded the attack, we would forcibly drop this bag.

Grace was so leave several of them stunned at the same time and pick them up, so the bag and attack power were greater, and in turn, the bullet could hit the screen more before being destroyed. It wasn’t difficult to grasp the trick, in part because the character was pretty well controlled and we could jump or descend the platforms at our leisure. The problem was a few pitfalls.

As for power ups of limited duration, saved for example stone wheel as special attack, there are several nods to the 1991 original. And, of course, we could get into a bonus phase, without having to collect letters. The price? Lots of girls to spare, with plenty of food to score and power ups which then disappeared, logically.

Joe & Mac Returns didn’t add anything new to the genre, but was effective in everything he did. The picturesque sea ended with a good variety of phases ending with their corresponding patterns, which in some cases took up almost a third of the screen. Where he fired the shot so far was in his final phase, with a second half as Boss rush which ended up exhausting everyone.

Have you endured the passage of time?

Yes, but without fanfare. Having been one of the last representatives of the formula Bubble Bobble and because of his late departure (year 1994), Joe & Mac Returns It happened at a time when we had seen almost everything, so it wasn’t exactly fresh. But it didn’t matter that it was the return of these two cavemen who came out more than a picture of an iron.

Joe & Mac Returns

Platforms Arcade (revised version) and Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Multiplayer Yes, local (two players)
Developer Data is
Company Data is
launch 1994
Price 7,99 euros (eShop)

The best

  • Un Tumblepop Joe & Mac!
  • The variety and color of its phases
  • Its recognizable and friendly aesthetic


  • It didn’t bring freshness to the genre
  • The Boss Rush part of the last phase
  • That we carry on with no return from Joe & Mac

Source: Gadgetsnow