As a gamer who grew up during the NES and Super NES eras I played a ton of side-scrolling beat’em up games as well as fast-paced action ones. They were all the rage in the arcades as well as at home on consoles. The genre sort of died out when we moved to 32-bit machines, but every now and then a company takes a risk and puts another brawler out on the market. That’s why when I saw Caveman Warriors I reached out for a review code, hoping for the best. If you’re looking for a good old-school romp with some friends, this one should do nicely.
My first impressions of the game when I saw video and screens was that it reminded me of Joe & Mac – a Super NES game that offered up 2-player co-op with cavemen. After I began playing Caveman Warriors, it became immediately apparent that while they share the same time period, everything else is completely different. In what can only be described as a Jetsons meets the Flintstones crossover event, the game begins with an alien spacecraft flying down and kidnapping two cavemen children. It’s up to you and you clan to give chase through several different worlds (complete with some time travel) to rescue your family.
You can play as one of four different characters. Showing equality even in the B.C. era, you have your choice between two guys and two women. They each have their own special powers and weapons. For example, Liliana uses a spear to slash enemies to death. Pressing the RZ trigger will allow her to throw it across the screen, whereas the LZ trigger activates her special move that delivers a stab and an uppercut. Both of these moves use up stamina, which slowly regenerates, so you won’t be able to spam them over and over again. Every character can perform regular jumps as well as extra high flips to reach higher areas. Much like Contra, you can leap down from a higher platform if there’s land below you. You’ll also come across breakable objects that hide health power-ups and points. These are all really goofy and include things like Mario’s cap and even the OG Game Boy.
Normally games like these have a more 3D-esque look to them and progress slowly. This title is completely different, so if you’re thinking it plays like Final Fight or Double Dragon, think again. It’s a true 2D side-scroller with platforms to jump on and fast moving enemies to dispatch. In some ways the game feels more akin to Contra (minus the guns) in pace than a traditional fighter. In fact, it’s here that I must make mention that while the game is a joy to play solo, it can become a little more frustrating when others join in. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some four-player couch co-op, but the level designs demand a lot of the players. There are precise jumps that must be made and instant deaths abound (cavemen can’t swim after all). There are even jump puzzles where timing is crucial, and this can be downright infuriating with multiple players.
No matter how many are playing, you can cycle through any of the four playable characters at anytime to make use of their special abilities. In fact, certain sections of the game demand this. One level features rock formations that are blocking the path and only Jack “The Smasher” can run and pummel through the obstacles. Another section needs Liliana’s spear thrown into a wall to jump on and vault over a wall. I really enjoyed these types of gameplay necessities thrown in to mix things up.
Graphically the game is rather pleasing on the eyes. It features a very cartoon-like aesthetic, although the animation is just average for the most part. Indeed, even the enemy designs are somewhat expected – although there are some rather large mini-boss characters that look great, but die all to quickly. There’s nothing here that really pushes the Nintendo Switch to its limits, but then again not every single game needs to in order to succeed.
The audio is rather decent as well. I particularly liked the small changes to the background music depending on which character you’re playing. At first I didn’t even notice it, but then on the second stage it became more apparent as I was cycling through my characters more often. This is something we’ve seen Nintendo do with games like Super Mario World where the music dynamically changes whether or not your riding Yoshi. Again, this is nothing revolutionary, but the attention to detail is very nice. I did get a little annoyed with some of the grunts the main characters make every single time they perform moves, but it didn’t ruin the experience.
Caveman Warriors never takes itself too seriously, and that shows with its surprising level diversity and over dramatic characters. It’s a great game to pull out on a Saturday afternoon and slash away at enemies. The only other negative that bothered me was that the throwback on your character when you get hit by something is a little extreme and can often send you careening to an instant death. I thought we were passed this little quirk after I broke a NES controller on Castlevania? Apparently not! Still, I had a good time with this game and think most gamers, especially ones who grew up on the ‘80s and ‘90s arcade games will appreciate this one. You can easily add a friend and play with just 2 Joy-Cons, making it another great on the go gaming experience.
Caveman Warriors was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.