The 1980s saw the advent of the OVA (original video animation). This was anime that was a cut above what was shown on TV with more lavish production values, sometimes too explicit for syndication, but also not quite at the level for a theatrical run. OVAs span a wide variety of genres, but the most prominent examples are sci-fi/cyberpunk.

The likes of Armitage III, Bubblegum Crisis, Metal Skin Panic, Angel Cop, Cyber City OEDO 808, and many more were deeply influenced by Western media like Blade Runner, but Japan’s artists built upon the aesthetics in a way that has become definitive. Flash forward about 30 years and Hotline Miami introduces gamers to a brand of fast and brutal, yet stimulating twin-stick action, coated with the dazzling veneer of the 1980s.

A small team of Brazillian developers generously thought; “What if Hotline Miami, but 80s anime and first person?”. With some rogue-lite elements and a story that is way smarter than it needed to be, you’d end up with Mullet MadJack. This a kind of game that is rarely seen anymore and is exploding at the seams with consummate professionalism and a confident vision. How does this stand apart from other first-person shooters and are the rogue elements annoying? Find out in our Mullet MadJack review!

Developer: HAMMER95
Publisher: HAMMER95, Epopeia Games
Platforms: Windows PC
Release Date: May 15, 2024
Price: $19.99 USD

Like any proper cyberpunk story, Mullet MadJack is set in a dystopian hellhole where life is as cheap as a Wal-Mart sandwich and people are slaves to an algorithm, but literally. While emulating the distinct style of the VHS era of anime, the premise is surprisingly very modern and revolves around streams where life’s blood is social media likes.

You’re at the whims of your audience; if they get bored, you die and they only have an attention span of 10 seconds. Our hero barely has any say in the matter and is forced to save a kidnapped influencer from a Robo-billionaire; an evil technocrat with a bullet-like dome. More than just a MadJack, he is also a Violence Jack and will have to kill his way up an entire building of randomly generated floors to save the princess.

MadJack is a true gamer at heart. A strong silent-type energy drink fiend who enjoys classic anime, wears sunglasses at night, and drives around wearing cool jackets. He’s a perfect “literally me”, and comes with an excellent backing soundtrack and a disaffected Gosling-esque swagger.

The quest to the top will be wrought with countless deaths for both the player and his foes and the prize being a pair of admittedly cool sneakers. Every step of the way, the world’s most smug anime girl will goad you into pressing on and offer an upgrade if you reach the next floor. Dying means starting the chapter from the start with a clean slate, but given how fast Mullet MadJack‘s gameplay is, you probably won’t even notice.

The core experience is centered on frantic mad dashes to an exit in linear stages that are festooned with killer cyborgs and drones that are eager to terminate our hero. Most foes will die in a couple of shots and while there are a few trickier enemies that need an extra step like the shielded guards; expect encounters to last fractions of a second.

Death is fast, but MadJack is faster. The player is as fragile as the paper droids he viciously disassembles so he must always be on the move to not run out of time since time is life. Every kill gains seconds and maintaining a steady string of sickening slaughters nets more time. Mixing up the shoot-out with environmental kills by dash-kicking threats helps earn a big score.

The core mechanics feel very snappy and fluid as one would expect from an intentionally retro-designed game. Sprites are massive but detailed. They’re like a mix of hand-drawn anime with some elements of prerendered CG and exist in a low-poly world that ensures Mullet MadJack can run on pretty much anything. Expect this to run perfectly on even modest computer specs and be compatible with most game controllers currently on the market.

When reaching the exit, MadJack gets to pick one perk out of three randomly selected options. At first, these are straightforward and can be anything from a different weapon, increased ammo capacity, penetration, or time bonuses for head/nut shots. As players ascend the building, more options unlock and some perks can become upgraded and stacked. Even better is that the pool of options expands so even when you restart at the first floor, you may have an easier time getting through with all the new toys at your disposal.

The kinesthetic feedback from the violence is very satisfying. There is an appropriate heft and crunch when kicking a boy in the chest as they careen back into a ventilation fan exploding into a visceral and pulpy mess. The sound effects go a long way into the movements and weight of the action too, making MadJack feel lethal and like he moves with a purpose.

Sliding and kicking are crucial pillars of MadJack’s arsenal. Sure, the flaming katana or the rail guns have unbeatable appeal, but speed is your most important stat and speed is your friend. Getting to the end of stages is more important than scoring headshots on noobs. Learning how to master MadJack’s mobility and using the environment to instantly wipe out cyborgs with sharply placed kicks and slides is a high-level way to play the game.

As players progress to the higher levels of the building, new stage gimmicks get introduced. Floor hazards and more elaborate rooms with multiple paths begin to appear as possibilities and new abilities are introduced to support the new possibilities. Wall-running your way through areas full of bottomless pits at top speeds while also trying to kill chainsaw maniacs to rack up points to stay alive is as invigorating as it sounds.

The boss battles change the pace from a frenetic and desperate race against time to a more conventional first-person action game experience. You won’t need to worry about keeping adrenaline up like Chev Chelios – instead the gameplay can be anything from a sniper shootout, car battle, or a no-frills one-on-one beatdown with an equally skilled warrior. These are worthwhile additions that mix up the constant and pounding rise of action and serve as perfect climaxes to each chapter.

Mullet MadJack‘s gameplay is an intense euphoric rush of adrenaline and jolting visceral rage that makes it hard to put down. Expect to die a lot but death always follows a biting urge to keep going and do better. At first, the gameplay and visuals are a lot to take in. It can be overwhelming due to the amount of information and the ridiculous speed, but it does not take long to adjust to the tempo.

The graphics will undoubtedly stand out to anyone who looks at this game. As mentioned earlier, Mullet MadJack‘s visuals are inspired by cyberpunk anime from the late 80s and early 90s. All the familiar pastiches are here and accounted for; the poofy hair girls, the mohawk maniacs, NERV-style design layouts, the Akira-bike slide, and the dazzling lurid colors that paint a picturesque cityscape in the face of adversity.

The art that attempts to capture the look and feel of genuine anime is not quite there. Mullet MadJack has no Japanese artist on staff, and while the designers came very close to emulating the look and feel of 80s anime, any old weeb who grew up with the same VHS collection as the developers would have a keen eye and would be able to tell the difference. Despite the inauthenticity, Mullet MadJack achieves a cool and stylish look of its own that makes it instantly recognizable.

The sheer density of the graphics and attention to detail veer on sensory overload, especially in a game where you don’t have the time to stop and smell the roses. There is a lot to appreciate and because of the repeated deaths and retries, gamers will begin to notice the cheeky sight gags and small touches.

Mullet MadJack is a brutal and exhilarating revelation set in the memory of when cyberpunk anime was at its absolute creative and artistic peak. The sly story about the dangers of AI, transhumanism, and how addiction takes many forms are diabolically married into the gameplay. The premise isn’t just a meathead plot to blow shit up, Mullet MadJack has things to say and it says everything with a wry smirk, promising a fun time with awesome music.

MULLET MADJACK was reviewed on PC using a code provided by Epopeia Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. MULLET MADJACK is now available for Windows PC (via Steam).

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The Verdict: 10

The Good

  • Highly stimulating and addictive fast-paced rogue-lite action and savage violence with enough set-pieces to break up the repetition
  • The visuals are an onslaught of neon-soaked, late 80s inpsired anime that overloads the senses
  • Angry-sounding, pulse-pounding 80s-style synth to drive around late at night with a cool jacket and shades
  • Surprisingly intelligent story about the dangers of transhumanism
  • Good smug anime girl and the absolute savagery of Endless Mode

The Bad

  • Love it or hate it rogue-lite gameplay and timer mechanics


A youth destined for damnation.

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