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Game Night: ‘Mullet Mad Jack’ Gives You 10 Seconds to Live

The contradiction of Mullet Mad Jack is that if you’re old enough to get its pop culture references, you might be too old to play it.

It’s built to look like a cyberpunk anime circa 1994, complete with questionable localization, dialogue that doesn’t match the subtitles, and a mission control lady who looks like a dominatrix version of Nabiki Tendo. If you were ever in a position in life where you could rent Akira on VHS from a Hollywood Video, Mullet Mad Jack will hit you right in the nostalgia.

As a game, it’s a twitchy, intense first-person shooter, set in a neon dystopia where dopamine is the only drug that matters. Your character has to do something cool every 10 seconds to keep that rush going or he dies on the spot. It’s a pure test of your reaction time and coordination.

Mullet Mad Jack’s aesthetic asks, “Hey, remember when you were in high school and first saw that new show Bubblegum Crisis?” The gameplay says, “I hope you’re under 20 and double-fisting energy drinks” and/or “hey, do you wish Post Void had been funnier?”

The game’s story is initially an excuse. A popular influencer has been abducted by sentient robots and taken to the top floor of their 80-story fortress. The PEACE organization taps freelance robot hunter Jack as the star of their livestreamed rescue attempt. If Jack wins, he gets a pair of really cool sneakers. Otherwise, his death will make great content.

Each floor of the skyscraper is a procedurally-generated gauntlet of traps, hazards, and hostile robots. While the robots can kill you, the real danger in Mullet Mad Jack is the timer, as Jack dies instantly once it runs out. Scoring a cool kill, like shooting a robot in the crotch or kicking it into live power wires, gets you a couple of extra seconds, while a gruesome melee takedown or chugging a can of sugary soda will reset the clock.

When it’s firing on all cylinders, Mullet Mad Jack has a similar feel to difficult “kaizo” platformers like Celeste. You enter a flow state where you’re fully in tune with the game and don’t have to think about what you’re doing. Call it Zen and the Art of Robot Murder.

Where Mullet Mad Jack falls down is that it also includes roguelike mechanics, which aren’t a great fit with its central gimmick. The random maps work well enough 9 times out of 10, but I’ve had runs end suddenly because it hit me with a jump I couldn’t make, or simply didn’t give me any items or weapons for a few rooms in a row. The game’s just too random for its own good.

I’ve also got to say that I can only stand to play this game for about 45 minutes at a time. After that, I get a headache that shuts me down for the afternoon. I usually don’t get motion sick from first-person shooters, but Mullet Mad Jack’s color palette and high speed are a rough combination.

I did clear the game, though, and I liked it more after seeing its ending. Mullet Mad Jack begins as a very obvious series of jokes about modern streamer culture and conspicuous consumption, but it takes a big John Carpenter swerve around its halfway point. It’s never subtle, but it’s smarter than it looks, and it’s the rare video game in 2024 that actually sticks the landing.

Mullet Mad Jack is the twitchiest of all twitch-reflex shooters, which rewards perfection and persistence over anything else. When it works, it really works; when it doesn’t, you can try again in 30 seconds or less. If you’re the kind of player who likes to speedrun “boomer shooters,” or you’re exactly the same kind of dopamine-addicted livestreamer that Mullet Mad Jack exists to parody, it might be up your alley.

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