There are few platform games that have succeeded in carving a place in the hearts of gamers. Unlike RPGs, platformers lack the means of telling an engaging story, and it’s an uphill battle to endear the characters to players. Efforts to do so can go either way. One famous example of a beloved platformer franchise would be the Super Mario series. Nintendo perfected the art of a platformer and made Mario into a household name, and nearly everyone, gamer or otherwise, has heard about the Italian plumber.
On the flipside, the most recent and infamous example would be Mighty No. 9. Ignoring the Kickstarter debacle, the game is a mediocre platformer, its problems exacerbated by bad voice acting and dull characters. The main character, Beck, is as charismatic as a block of wood. Mighty No. 9 might not have been badly received if the game was good or, at least, enjoyable. But it didn’t perform in the aspects that mattered and was gutted for it.
Caveman Warriors is a game brimming with personality. Character and enemy designs are varied and interesting, and will likely win over those who play it. JanduSoft has created a lively, prehistoric world to play in. The story is bare-bones but charming enough to keep players invested, and though the focus is on its platforming I liked the effort to make the game more than just a normal platformer.
In Caveman Warriors, players choose between four playable characters. Each have different skill sets and special abilities, and their uses are gradually explained as you progress. We have Moe, a devilish blue-haired man who uses his bongo to deliver short blasts with vibrations; Liliana, a fiery spear-wielding woman with a pet snake; Jack, a balding man who uses his dog as a toupee and wields a stone axe; and Brienne, a muscular mountain of a woman who uses a cooked-drumstick-like club. My personal favourite was Liliana since her special ability came in handy for dispatching opponents at a distance.
Switching between characters is easily done and the game eases the player into juggling different characters through rock monuments and wooden signs placed throughout each level. The unobtrusive nature of the tutorials really set the tone for the game, and I never found myself overwhelmed or needing to pause the game to check up on the controls. Caveman Warriors does well in guiding the player but never coddles them. Other than minor hand holding in the introductory levels, the player is left alone to discover the other aspects of the game, aided by the clever use of environmental clues.
I remember being pleasantly surprised when I was awarded with health items and bonuses when I broke a coconut. It was the same feeling I’d gotten an hour later when I took out several enemies by jumping on them in quick succession – much like what Mario would do when faced with a conga line of Goombas. There’s always a rush of delight at these discoveries, and it reminded me of how I bumbled through platform games in the Game Boy era.
Caveman Warriors often strikes a good balance between being challenging and fun, but there are times where it falls short. Like any game, the difficulty increases as the player progresses. Early levels and their bosses hit the sweet spot of what I felt was challenging, yet they were extremely fun. The later ones, however, would either be a cakewalk or mind-numbingly frustrating. The latter has several moments where I felt things were made difficult for the sake of it. Unfairly placed obstacles would have me dying when I least expected it, or there would be no way to avoid getting hurt. Similarly, there would be some bosses that felt spectacularly unbalanced, and I liken the experience of trying to beat them to plucking teeth.
Boss battles in Caveman Warriors are the most creative ones I’ve ever come across. There isn’t a single boss that resembles the other, save for maybe one, and this made battles especially tense since I didn’t know what to expect. A giant ravenous plant, a caveman clad in leather riding a T-Rex, and even a yeti – I was constantly surprised by the bosses that appeared at the end of each level. I usually died more than once before managing to clear a level. The ability to switch between characters definitely made things easier, since some characters have the ability to counter a boss.
For those worrying about content, Caveman Warriors has two modes, Normal and Arcade. I finished Normal mode in five hours, but playtime might vary between different players. Arcade mode is unlocked once the main campaign is finished, and while the levels are identical, they are much harder and less forgiving. Falling into water or into pits will deduct one life out of the three you’re given, unlike playing in Normal where your health is merely cut down.
It makes things more intense, especially when there are enemies lobbing projectiles from hard-to-reach spots. Extra levels can also be unlocked in both modes by using batteries collected throughout each level. Most of them are hidden, so players should keep a sharp ear out for the faint buzz of electricity as they play.
Those looking for a challenging platformer would get their money’s worth in Caveman Warriors, and while the game can be unfair at times, I enjoyed my time with it. There’s much fun to be had regardless of whether you’re playing by yourself or with friends.
*The code for this game was provided by the developer.