What comes to mind when you think of the defining qualities of 80’s and 90’s games? Would they include straightforward, undiluted action, or the no-nonsense style stripped of fluff? What about the grueling difficulty that constantly you beckons to back to conquer its trials? Well, according to Spanish-based developer JanduSoft, it’s all of the above.
Oh, apparently they also include knockback, limited lives, and some stiff, albeit responsive controls. Caveman Warriors certainly invokes a feeling of warm and fuzzy retro gaming nostalgia as it intends to. At the same time, it drudges up some of these less-than-ideal quirks often prominent in oldschool games. Much like the theme of this title, some of the elements here remind us why they are relics of a bygone age that are probably best left in the past.
A Prehistoric Platforming Romp
Whether or not Caveman Warriors achieves nostalgic nirvana is besides the point though. What ultimately matters is – is it any fun? Well, yeah, somewhat.
Sure, there are some rigid, NES stlye controls and frustrating gameplay courtesy of an overabundance of knockback. At the end of the day though, I had a pretty good time hopping, shooting, and clubbing my way across the handful of prehistoric and Sci-Fi environments. Yes, I said “sci-fi,” as aliens have apparently abducted your children, which is the extent of the game’s minimal plot.
Essentially, it’s platforming buffs who are going to respond to this game most strongly, whether past or present. By JanduSoft’s own admission via their kickstarter, games like Super Mario Bros and Metal Slug are key influences. Though, as retro buffs might notice, the influence de jour and virtual spiritual ancestor is an early 90’s game called Joe and Mac.
Does Caveman Warriors reach the level of quality found in these titles? Not exactly, but there are still quick, moderate doses of fun to be had throughout.
The Nitty Gritty, and Downright Dirty
The gameplay is fundamentally simple; run from left to right and swing or toss your weapon like a maniac as you fight through a slew of colorful baddies, gather collectables, as well as traverse platforms and pits. You choose from a diverse lineup of four characters, each with their own weapons and special moves. You’ve got Jack, a bearded axe-wielding brute, Brienne, who uses a giant meat slab as a blunt weapon, a monkey summoning musician named Moe, and a spear-slinging redhead named Liliana. Doesn’t get much more prototypical caveman than that, does it?
Characters can be swapped out on the fly, or you can partner up with a few friends in a crazy platforming-fest akin to a prehistoric version of New Super Mario Brothers. Various situations in the game encourage you, and sometimes downright force you to switch characters. You might, for instance, find a high ledge that requires a makeshift platform courtesy of Liliana’s spear to reach. Or you’ll need to distract an enemy with the siren call of Moe’s monkey dance.
No matter who you pick though, nothing will be able to save you from the brutal knockback mechanic. Seriously, 80% of the game’s difficulty probably comes from being smacked backwards into a pit Castlevania style, draining a significant chunk of health. It’s an annoying feature that feels like the video game equivalent of a child consistently banging the back of your seat on an airplane.
Ironically, while the game seems to embrace its retro nature, it’s predominantly the “oldschool” characteristics that are its biggest detriments. Let’s review: you’ve got knockback, one-directional scrolling, limited lives and check points, along with NES controls. Still, if you manage to work around these quirks, Caveman Warriors does invoke some of that retro platforming enjoyment at its core, especially with friends.
In terms of setting and atmosphere the game’s all over the place. One minute you’ll be hacking away at cave people and prehistoric reptiles, the next you’ll be fending off Nazi gunfire, or evading moving lasers from inside a UFO. You’re even thrown into an air raid at one point, flying and weaving through a barrage of missiles.
But in a way this random assortment of themes is part of the game’s charm. It certainly keeps things interesting, which isn’t always easy when it comes to basic platformers.
If Caveman Warriors possesses one consistent element stylistically, it’s that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The experience might feel like that of an old Genesis action game that’s been lost in a time vortex. Yet the game possesses a wacky, cartoony vibe that resembles an Adult Swim title.
In terms of its art design, you’re essentially getting what looks to be basic 2D art cobbled together in After Effects or Flash. It won’t wow you by any means, but it fits with the goofy, lighthearted nature of this title.
- Overall tight mechanics reminiscent of oldschool platforming action
- Enjoyable simultaneous co-op
- A fun and lighthearted mix of themes
- Relatively easy to jump into while providing a challenge, especially in arcade mode
- Few checkpoints and limited lives set the stage for frustrating replays of levels
- No online functionality
- Relatively light on content
- Knockback, knockback, and more knockback…
Caveman Warriors does a decent job filling the role of that lighthearted action game you and your buddies played as kids. Though blemishes and frustrations are prominent, there are also entertaining moments, complete with oldschool grueling gameplay, particularly in the form of the arcade mode and bonus stages.