Rolling out of the eastasiasoft stable is Cave Bad; another entry from the same universe of Pity Pit. With the same hero as the previous game, Oratio the Dwarf, it’s set in a similar style graphically but is a world different in terms of playstyle and execution. You see, instead of following the same format as before, where Oratio must keep digging downwards, deeper and deeper, Cave Bad is laid out as a series of horizontal rooms, each separate from the last. Given that the bar was set so low with Pity Pit, surely Cave Bad can be an improvement?
So, Oratio is at it again, playing underground, and in Cave Bad he is exploring a procedurally generated mine made of different levels. Each room in this mine has either a boss, a chest, a maze of destructible blocks with enemies in them, and last but not least a kind of shop screen where you can spend your hard-earned coins on items like health refills and shields. What you need to do is pretty simple: kill all the baddies, pick up all the coins and kill the boss to go to the next level.
Now, Oratio has two different methods that affect his combat options: he has bombs, and he has a hammer, which seems to fire out a beam of destruction. There really isn’t much else in Cave Bad to be brutally honest. Beating the boss of each level will not only give you a power-up, such as extra health hearts or increased damage, but it will also open a portal to the next level, allowing the adventure to continue.
Graphically, what we have here is a retro 8-bit-looking affair, made up of various rectangular rooms, yet in an interesting touch, you don’t have to use the doorways to the room in order to move around; you can instead use your bombs to blast a hole in the wall and scurry through that. And in terms of the audio all is very nice and chiptune in fashion; the sounds are suitably retro as well, with a pained “squeak” as Oratio takes a hit.
Gameplay-wise and Cave Bad works well, much more enjoyable than the previous Pity Pit, what with it now all being played out in a horizontal fashion. The combat is okay as well, with some difficulties with the hitboxes of various enemies causing issues, but nothing that can’t be solved with a bit of caution. The one thing to bear in mind however is that the difficulty of Cave Bad is also right there on the retro end of the scale; if Oratio loses all his hearts (he starts with only three) then it’s game over and back to the start you go.
There are some nice ideas in Cave Bad. For instance the chests in the rooms that you find offer you various power-ups that can help, but there is one in particular that makes things extremely easy – Explosive Bullets. These cause explosions to fan out from the impact point of Oratio’s hammer, killing anything and everything including any boss within 10 seconds of starting a fight. That in turn makes the rest of the game a doddle as well. Without this item, the bosses can be challenging – especially the second one, who drops bombs in addition to trying to stomp you into the floor. However should you come toting Explosive Bullets, they don’t even have a chance to move.
And this is where another issue arises. I’ve spoken before when reviewing eastasiasoft games about how the achievement lists tend to be short, simple and easy, hamstringing the long-term gameplay. You’ll therefore not be surprised to hear that Cave Bad is all out of achievements by the end of the third level; completed before 35 minutes have elapsed. It’s a shame these aren’t scattered throughout the experience a little more and I had unlocked 100% of the achievements for Cave Bad in half an hour flat.
And no matter what your thoughts on the whole achievements and Gamerscore issues, and despite the procedurally generated levels and the fun gameplay found within, the urge to play any more of Cave Bad pretty much evaporates like the dew in the morning sunlight. I can’t understand why the developers do this, as without anything to work towards, there’s no desire to keep playing. An example of the other end of the scale is that I still haven’t got the Seriously 2.0 achievement in Gears of War 2, but I haven’t given up and it keeps me going back to the game again and again. Here and now though, I won’t be going back to Cave Bad.
As with any review a conclusion is required, and it’s a bit of a tough one in terms of Cave Bad on Xbox. The game itself is pretty good and decent to play, but the long term gameplay is missing. Some may say that £4.19 for an easy 1000 Gamerscore, with minimal investment of time, is obviously great, but for a regular game player it’s a much harder sell. Cave Bad is not a bad game by any manner of means, but it’s not great either and so the overall viewpoint to focus on depends on what you want from a game. Easy Gamerscore? This is nailed on. Long-term gameplay? It’s not.