Monday, May 22, 2006

Cave Jumper Review

Cave Jumper, developed by KNPMASTER and published by Addictive 247.
The Good: Simple, classic mechanics (easy to play), old school graphics (nostalgic)
The Not So Good: Simple, classic mechanics (not challenging), old school graphics (outdated), saves only every five levels
What say you? A new platform game that looks, feels, and plays like a old platform game: 5/8

Remember the pixilated glory of Super Mario Brothers? Of course you do. The running! The jumping! The mushrooms! Well, most of that action is back in Cave Jumper, a new platform game that features all of the running, jumping, and throwing you could ever hope to imagine, all in spectacular low-resolution. Jumping is fun!

Cave Jumper plays both in 320x240 and relatively high-resolution 640x480. As you can imagine, this means the graphics are definitely old-school: high in the blockiness count and low on the detail. You won’t be turning to Cave Jumper for the latest in 3-D hardware acceleration, but this means that anyone with any computer made in the past 15-20 years can run this game. The developer could have added some nice details even at the low resolution, but instead we’re left with bland environments that are surpassed even by the earlier Nintendo games. The sound is along the same lines: few effects with some campy/annoying background music. Still, there is some amount of nostalgia in dealing with games like this, ones that feature simple graphics and effects and are much more interested in gameplay. You can argue it’s better to have a simple game that runs on essentially every computer than a buggy cutting-edge title that half the users run into problems with. As long as you go along with this kind of thinking, then the special effects of Cave Jumper won’t disappoint too terribly much.

As you might have gathered from the review so far, Cave Jumper is your basic platform game. You’ll traverse caverns in the search for gold coins while jumping over crevasses, killing extremely large cave spiders, and generally avoid dying. You can navigate the levels by walking left to right, jumping onto ledges, activating elevators (I guess someone explored the caves first and was nice enough to install working elevators), and throwing your axe to kill nearby bad guys. You can also plant dynamite (although it’s usually much easier just to axe them to death) and use your rope to scale walls. There are a number of spooky enemies in the game, including spiders, bats, skeletons, and bears. Cave Jumper doesn’t feature any expert-level AI: just baddies that walk back and forth along scripted paths. Cave Jumper features 55 different levels, although, according to the online scoreboard, most people only reach the 20’s before dying. The game saves your progress every five levels, which is a very strange mechanic. Why not save after each level? What if I need to quit after the 4th level to attend to something that needs my attending? This is extremely annoying and easily my biggest complaint in the game.

I’m all for classic arcade action, and I’ll even buy into a clone of an existing game as long as it’s well done. The problem is that Cave Jumper doesn’t feature anything new to the table of platform games, just a rehash of classic (yet slightly enjoyable) gameplay. It’s a nice little diversion, but nothing out of the ordinary that would grab your attention or make it a “must buy.” I would have liked Cave Jumper a lot better if it weren’t for the arbitrary saved games restriction. I am a very important person and sometimes can’t sit down long enough to complete a game all the way through! People who enjoy the classic arcade stylings found in Cave Jumper should get some satisfaction out of the game, but there is one major shortcoming (at least in my opinion) and no real original game elements to speak of.