Review: Caveman Warriors

An exercise in prehistoric frustration.

By Joshua A. Johnston. Posted 04/03/2018 11:25 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Clever art style; unique characters; wacky plot
Poison Mushroom for...
Problematic controls; frustrating knockback element; awkward platform mechanics

Nintendo consoles have a rich history of 4-player co-op, going back to the days of Nintendo 64 and its groundbreaking four controller ports. Those ports were carried over to GameCube before the era of wireless gaming took hold under Wii and Wii U. Switch comes out of the box with a Joy-Con capable of two players, but with a second Joy-Con that number can be expanded to four. Like previous systems, Switch is poised to carry on the grand tradition of 4-player goodness. Caveman Warriors, a multiplatform title available through the Nintendo eShop, feels like an early example of that tradition, but not always for the better.

To be sure, the game certainly looks the part. With a wild cartoon feel, wacky time-travel alien plot, exotic locales, and four unique characters, this game clearly takes its inspiration from the old-school 2D platformers you might have played back on SNES. Things start out a little weird, but as the game progresses, they get ever more nutty, with a mashup of characters across time and space that would make a B-movie blush.

The characters, in particular, are of interest, since the four of them each have different skills and abilities. One of them, for example, can hurl spears against walls to reach inaccessible areas, while another can charge through enemies with abandon. The game even lets you swap between the characters on the fly, which is not only cool, but absolutely essential if you’re playing with less than four players.

But what Caveman Warriors serves up in style, it lacks in execution, and the controls are one of the chief offenders. Jumping, for example, comes in a short and super jump variety, but they are both really awkward, resulting in a lot of missed landings. It doesn’t help that both are controlled by the same button, so it’s far too easy to accidentally execute a super jump when you only wanted a regular one. The jumping problem becomes more troublesome because the game has a large platform component. A lot of the gameplay consists of hopping across small ledges or moving platforms, and a miss results in a sizable loss of energy. Oh, and the cavemen can’t swim, so water is a quick path to caveman death.

Compounding the controls are the way hits are registered. A caveman who takes a strike is knocked backwards, unable to fight. It’s too easy to jump across a body of water, land on a narrow ledge, take a hit from a baddie… and be sent flying back into the water where you take even more damage. And when you die? Your crew only has a limited pool of lives, so once they’re gone, you have to restart a level all over again; after enough missed landings, you may decide you don’t want to. Some people might argue that the controls are old-school and the difficulty hardcore. Maybe, but in a day and age of silk-smooth controls from any game starring Mario, retro gameplay is not an excuse for wonky controls.

So is this for you? If you relish the days when death by bad jumping mechanics was commonplace in gaming and enemy hits were cheap, you might like the nostalgia Caveman Warriors brings. But, if you’re looking for a refined experience, this is probably not the co-op experience you’re looking for.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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