By Henry Badilla / November 21st, 2017
|Release Date||September 22, 2017|
|Platform||PS4, Xbox One, PC|
2017 has already seen the return of a couple of beloved franchises and a fantastic resurgence of the platforming genre. Back in February JanduSoft took part of this revival by launching their Kickstarter campaign for Caveman Warriors, an action platformer that’s inspired by games like Joe & Mac, Super Mario, Metal Slug and Trine. With such big shoes to fill let’s take a look at the final game and see how it turned out.
The story in this one is quite simple. An alien kidnaps the children of our protagonist so now they’re after the invader to save them. This is merely an excuse to get the game started, and considering that it is based on games from the SNES era, it’s a nice nod.
But the storytelling is not the only thing which is based off on classic games. This is pretty similar to an arcade-style game. Your character has a life bar, and if it’s depleted you lose one life out of four. If you lose them all you have to start from the beginning of the level. You’ll have to move your character from left to right, defeating your enemies and jumping through the different platforming sections until you reach the boss at the end of the level—all pretty standard for this genre.
Where the game tries to differentiate from the rest is in the use of four unique characters, all with different abilities that you can swap during play to assist you in each section. The characters are: Liliana, who can throw a lance at the enemies and use it as a platform against certain walls; Jack, who throws an axe at his enemies and can break certain walls; Brienne, who has a shield that can prevent all damage; and finally Moe, who has a boomerang and a two-headed monkey that paralyzes enemies by dancing.
While this concept sounds good, and Trine was able to make great use of it, in Caveman Warriors feels tacked-on. For example, you just jump through a platforming section while avoiding enemies and suddenly the action stops, a high wall appears, and you have to aim your jump to shoot the lance at the right height before you can continue. The same applies with Brienne’s ability: usually there is a laser beam coming at you that’s too obvious, and that’s what tells you that you have to use her ability. This breaks the flow of the rest of the game, which is more action-oriented.
From a combat perspective the only skills that really matter are Brienne’s shield, since you can block almost anything in front of you, and Liliana’s lance, because it travels in a straight line so you can hit faraway enemies. Jack’s axe works in some segments since it hits upwards, and Moe is just useless. All characters do the same amount of damage, have a basic close attack, and jump the same distance. The life total varies a bit between characters, but since you can swap them at any time it doesn’t really impact gameplay.
In order to use the special abilities of each character there is a stamina bar that refills over time. While the idea is that you can’t spam attacks, the truth is that you will spend too much time trying to hit things with Liliana’s lance because the hitbox is too small, so you will end up sitting idle while waiting for the shared stamina bar to refill before trying again.
Moving over to the levels, they feel a bit uninspired. From a jungle-esque first level, to a cave and then to the alien ship, most of the backgrounds are repetitive as well as most enemies. The main enemies are a caveman that simply runs towards you, and another who throws arced projectiles at you or shoots straight. There are other unique characters for some levels but mostly these three archetypes are repeated throughout the levels. Their attack patterns may be simple and by themselves easy to avoid, but when there are too many enemies on stage it’s hard to avoid them all.
The main problem with this is that when an enemy hits you, your character will be pushed backwards, which will lead you most of the time to fall off the stage. While you don’t die from it, your character will take massive damage, which is the same feeling as getting hit by a Medusa Head in Castlevania.
In addition to the regular action levels there are two that break this formula. In the first you ride a triceratops while shooting a group of enemies running after you. This level was my favorite since the enemy appearance is similar to what you would see on The Flintstones. For example, one of the enemies rides a dinosaur as a motorcycle. The other is closer to a shoot ’em up in which you control an airplane in a stage based on World War 2. The only problem with both levels is that every attack you make consumes stamina, so many times you will run out of it easily, and since you need to shoot certain obstacles to avoid getting hit you may come into a situation in which you can’t avoid it.
There are eight bosses total, each with a unique style and different attack patterns. This is the kind of game where you need to learn the pattern of the boss, evade them, and attack when you get a chance. Only one boss half-way through the game was hard, but by using Brienne’s block ability you can avoid lots of damage. You may think that changing characters can make certain fights easier but to be honest it didn’t feel that way for me, as only Brienne’s ability made a significant difference.
In regards to the graphics of the game, Caveman Warriors uses a 2D cartoonish look to represent both the characters and environments. While there are a few visual gags for some enemies, I was expecting more of them considering that it is one of the most recognized characteristics of Joe & Mac and Metal Slug. The music works well as a background for the action and it doesn’t get in the way of the adventure, but is not memorable either.
Unfortunately the game doesn’t track the time, but I believe that each level took me between 15 to 20 minutes to complete. For a total of eight levels we’re talking about two and a half hours of gameplay on a optimal run. However, there are three batteries that can be collected on each level which unlock eight additional levels, which are harder versions of the existing levels, and an additional difficulty once you beat the game. Depending on your enjoyment of the mechanics of the game you may get more hours out of it, but for me I’m ready to move on.
The game is already out for $15, and I while I had big expectations after seeing that they were taking inspiration from Metal Slug and Super Mario, I feel that the end product is a pretty standard arcade-like game. You can play local co-op with three other players, so if that’s something you are looking for in a game this could be for you, but other than that there’s not much that sets this one apart.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
2D platformerCaveman WarriorsJanduSoftJoe & MacPS4SteamXbox One