Caveman Warriors Review (Switch) – “Prehistoric Mess”

Caveman Warriors was a Kickstarter title that aims to capture the spirit of 16-bit platformers. Spain-based developer JanduSoft cultivated a game that’s part Joe & Mac, part Trine, and part New Super Mario Bros. Does this prehistoric title deserve your time?

Caveman Warriors is a 2D action-platformer set in prehistoric times. Aliens have captured the tribe’s children and it is up to the four heroes (Jack, Brienne, Moe, and Liliana) to rescue them and prevent aliens from taking over. Each level has a few comic panels before starting to showcase how each area connects to the story. For the type of game Caveman Warriors is, this works out more than fine, as you are not here for a groundbreaking story. Games of this nature are where gameplay is the primary focus. So the gameplay…well, where do I begin…

As mentioned, the game is an action-platforming, side-scroller. You can either play solo, or local co-op with up to four players. Each level provides unique challenges and gameplay changes to help keep it from getting stale. Whether you are platforming a jungle, riding a triceratops manning a barrel cannon, aboard an alien ship, or even time traveling to World War II, there’s no shortage of varied levels. This was probably Caveman Warriors’ best aspect, it’s constant variety. Each of the four characters have different abilities and stats. Each of their health bars vary, but switching between them on the fly will have you maintaining the health across all of them equally. They each have their own weapon, ranged attack and special ability. There are times where you will have to switch to specific characters to further advance in levels. For example, Jack has a running charge that can break through blocks, or Liliana can throw her spear to stick on certain walls to reach higher platforms. This is a nice touch and really allows you to try out all four characters. Playing the game in co-op is definitely the way to go if possible, as that provided for a bit more enjoyment. Unfortunately, that’s about as positive as things get.

The amount of frustration I’ve had fighting with the game’s stiff controls and combat had me jaw-dropped at how stilted it felt. It’s been a long time since I played a game where the controls were so unreliable. All four characters have almost no range with attacks. The hit boxes feel off, leaving enemies to constantly take hits at you. It was almost a guarantee whenever hitting an enemy, that I would still get hit as well. Switching characters occasionally would not register at all upon pressing the applicable button. When it comes to platformers, control is all about precision.

Another infuriating element is knockback damage. Now, I’m not one to complain about getting knocked back a bit from taking a hit. Heck, even with how relentless the NES Ninja Gaiden games were with platforming and getting knocked back from taking a hit, it was fairly reasonable. Caveman warriors has you taking a hit and flying back a large distance, sometimes almost a quarter of the screen itself. I cannot mention the amount of times taking a hit resulted in a cheap shot to knock me into a pit or in the water, taking twice the amount of damage. It just leaves for truly frustrating platforming experience. To further add to the frustration, checkpoints are pretty few and far in between during levels, and you have lives between checkpoints. Also, the last checkpoint of each level before a boss doesn’t start by the boss. Instead, it puts you before enemies and obstacles that almost guarantee not making it to the boss with a full health bar. Lastly, one of the biggest oversights was one of the dialog boxes showcasing which button to press during the triceratops chase. It actually shows programming code, as opposed to the button you’re supposed to press. While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what button to fire on the triceratops, it’s just poor QA to miss this.

Visually, Caveman Warriors is a very colorful and vibrant game. It has an almost flash-style appearance. Characters are well designed, as are the environments. Each area definitely feels and looks unique. It runs at 30fps and never experienced any framerate drops. However, certain objects in the environments look like objects you can interact with, but are just background. This was apparently in the second level where crystals illuminating the caverns would appear to be something you could break, but was just part of the background. Also, the game is constantly shifting its camera zoom, making many collectibles enemies drop almost impossible to distinguish. Audio wise, characters makes their own unique grunts when attacking or getting attacked, as do all the enemies. Audio effects are serviceable and definitely capture the game’s aesthetic. The music, while unmemorable, matches the game’s tone and works well during gameplay. However, there was a bug where the music in the map select screen never loaded after completing a level. It happened numerous times during our playthrough of it.

Caveman Warriors is an infuriating exercise in gaming. The game does throw a nice amount of variety in each level and has charm, but the unrefined gameplay mechanics, poor controls and stiff combat really make this game an absolute chore to play most of the time. The game’s setting was a much welcome breath of fresh air, but when the game itself just doesn’t play well, it leaves for a missed opportunity. Should the game patch many of its issues, there’s an enjoyable game to be found here. But until then, it’s best to avoid the prehistoric times…

Overall Score:4.5 out of 10 = Don’t buy it!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Caveman Warriors! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

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