There was a Caveman – What We Think:
There Was a Caveman. Stated very matter of factly, this is one retro action platformer that puts all its cards on the table right from the get-go.
Spread over seven levels of punishing difficulty, There Was a Caveman is a game for the extremely dedicated – or masochistic. It’s one of those platformers that follows suit with what we now call “retro-inspired.” With the amount of times that a player will die in this game, just be thankful that it won’t result in losing a ton of quarters at an arcade.
Constantly Dying – with a Vengeance?
Fortunately enough, each level has multiple sections. Once a section is completed, upon death the player will start at the beginning of that section, as opposed to the beginning of the level.
Dying has no real consequence, other than losing precious skulls that can be used to purchase consumables or health halfway through the level. If you run out of skulls, fear not. Cave people do not experience game overs.
There Was a Caveman requires a lot of memorization. Often, enemies and obstacles will appear quickly and without giving much time to react. It seems the developer intentionally crafted such a punishing title, as there are a couple of Steam achievements that reward players who kick the bucket often within the roughly two-to-three hour play-through.
I Can Double-Jump Right? Sometimes!
The controls are simple; with the ability to jump, attack, dash or throw consumable items, players will easily adapt to the controls. With a double-jump feature in place, as well, you may just have that extra chance at avoiding an imminent death.
The caveman’s controls are responsive for the most part. There were a few moments where I was sure the double-jump stopped working for no explicable reason. Unlike famous platforming heroes such as Mario, our caveman won’t slide too far across the screen after taking a jump a little too quickly.
K.Rool Would Be Disappointed
Variety tries to poke its way into the experience with a boss fight at the end of every level. These bosses are reminiscent of those in the Donkey Kong series, utilizing a pattern of attacks and offering a brief moment of vulnerability. Defeating them is as simple as figuring out the pattern, and with unlimited attempts, it doesn’t take too long.
There’s one more saving grace amidst the monotony of gameplay. Just before the water level, (my personal favorite, thanks to countless afternoons growing up with my buddy Donkey Kong), our hero gets to ride a pterodactyl for all of one minute. That’s alright, I guess.
Consumable projectiles also provide a small amount of variety. A rock can be thrown in a straight line, while a bone is thrown in an arch. Spears can be thrown into walls to provide an additional platform, which is helpful in discovering some of the many secret passageways hidden throughout the game.
Replayability? What Replayability?
I don’t want to be too harsh on There Was a Caveman. It’s evident a lot of passion and care went into developing this title. The downside is that it’s not very fun. As video games have evolved, games with such punishing difficulty and requiring memorization have become a niche genre – especially amidst a generation with seemingly lower attention spans (myself included, admittedly).
Add to this a chiptune soundtrack that is embarrassing even by Atari 2600 standards, and the result is a package boring enough to warrant dusting off that copy of No Man’s Sky that’s been sitting on the shelf since release, just to play something slightly – ever so slightly – less boring and offensive to the eardrums.
There Was a Caveman is Available on Steam.
Watch the official trailer for There was a Caveman below: