When I was younger – a lot younger I may add – my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I got older. After rattling my brain, several answers came out. Spaceman, Policeman, Footballer and Caveman. Whilst those early choices are the natural things you’d expect to hear from any young lad, the latter was probably the one that confused my teacher the most as she just casually laughed it off. Thinking back on it now, it confuses me too, but back then I had obviously spent way too much of my time watching The Flintstones. Fortunately, I decided against a step back in time, but my fascination with those early primal days has always been there.
So when Caveman Warriors popped up I knew I had to get in on the action. Could it bring another exciting caveman adventure? I wasn’t even sure what one of those was, but I jumped in to take a look anyway.
For those who’ve not yet heard of Caveman Warriors, it’s a platforming game – a 2D side scrolling platform game to be precise – and one which places you into the fleecy cover-ups of the local indigenous cave family of the land, taking you on a step back in time to the prehistoric age. The story follows the family as they hunt down the nefarious alien responsible for kidnapping their two youngest children; a hunt which sees the family travel throughout the kingdom, and through a series of challenging obstacles to get them back.
There are several levels included in Caveman Warriors, all of which offer a steadily increased challenge over the one before it. None of the levels are particularly lengthy but they are rather sprawling affairs, with environmental dangers such as spikes, chasms, water pools and spitting plants, not to mention the many enemies, strewn throughout. Mastering them is essential however, and those wanting the full experience will need to so as each level also contains an extra hidden stage that can be unlocked by collecting three awkwardly placed batteries during each main segment.
Each level does of course add to the story, and although it may not be the traditional way of storytelling – or maybe it is if you were to go back to such times – it all plays out via a series of comic book style panels. Whilst there are no words or even any verbal narrative to go on, the pictures shown give a clear indication as to what’s going on and are designed in a unique art style that’s fitting to the game overall. Although there will be some who disapprove at such a short narrative experience, I for one commend how well each of the small and structured comic strip style sequences have been utilised within the game. It’s certainly a unique way to tell the story and one that felt rewarding every time the next strip arrived.
There are four playable characters to choose from within Caveman Warriors, all of which can be hot swapped quickly with a simple press of the LB and RB buttons. Swapping between characters is a necessary thing to do and is something you will be actioning a lot, unless of course you have a full group of four players to fill in the empty roles.
This is due to the unique abilities each of the characters possess, and just how relevant each one is to the various levels. The mother of the tribe carries a heavy club – meat on a bone no less – for attacking the enemy, and her main ability is a shield which can deflect any enemy damage. The father of the group comes in as your typical caveman, throwing axes at his enemies from a distance. The daughter comes with a spear which can be thrown at specific surfaces to allow an extra step up to an otherwise unreachable platform, whilst the only son can roll dancing monkeys to distract enemies, allowing for an easy takedown. Each one is needed too, at least if you hope to make it through each of the levels in one piece, as Caveman Warriors has some unexpected challenges to overcome.
Each of the stages contain a limited number of checkpoints which will restore the players health and number of remaining lives to full. That of course sounds wonderful, but with the difficulty posed by the various enemies and hazards throughout the game, losing all of these lives and indeed your entire health bar is all too easy. Health pickups are available from some downed enemies, as are various items which give off points towards your score – something which doesn’t really have a true purpose other than for bragging rights for multiple players – however pickups only account towards a small part of your health being regenerated. This means you will need to be aware of each and every enemy and their different attacks at all times, something which changes the game to more of a strategic platformer than the fast paced approach we usually see in most games from this genre.
The biggest challenge however is the finale. Every level has one and this is where the boss fights come in. These are rather typical as far as boss fights go, with the traditional patterns of attacks that players must learn to avoid. This isn’t easy due to any slightest mistake usually resulting in an overwhelming loss to your health bar. Despite the difficulty there is a rewarding feeling that comes from the dispatching of each boss, something which is only sweetened when the next storyboard pops up.
Despite the challenging difficulty it’s rare that the game ever feels unfair, unless of course you manage to fall into a hazard on a level that has moving platforms. When doing this a vicious loop begins that can see one simple mistake turned into a life draining misery as there seems to be nothing in place to ensure players have a safe place to respawn. You see, after dying, you are placed onto a temporary platform that disappears rather quickly, leaving you to drop once more should a jump not have been implemented quickly. This gets increasingly frustrating as if you’re not quite close enough to a safe platform, you can be left to simply perish over and over until each of your lives have been lost. This could easily be patched later on, but it has proved very irritating when progressing through some of the harder levels in the game.
As for the controls and Caveman Warriors keeps things perfectly simple with only a few different buttons used to control everything you need. All are as fluid as you would expect from any modern platformer and the graphics are equally wonderful with colourful and vibrant levels, all unique in design and providing memorable visuals throughout.
Caveman Warriors may not be the longest platformer in history, but the challenging difficulty makes for a lengthy experience. With plenty of extra levels that can be unlocked, and an enjoyable and easy to follow story, Caveman Warriors is an impressive title. It would have been nicer to have seen some more sensibly placed checkpoints and respawn locations, but the overall game experience is generally enjoyable and is definitely something you should be looking to get involved in – especially if platforming is a genre you enjoy.