capsule review

Cave Days

At a Glance
  • Insolita Studios Cave Days

    Macworld Rating

Two-dimensional platform action games are a dying art. Even simple shareware games are become more and more complex and graphically rich 3-D endeavors these days, so it’s always nice to find an “old school” platformer like Cave Days, from newcomers Insolita Studios. It’s casual fare, but it’s fun for gamers who remember the good old days of 8-bit consoles like the original Nintendo.

Cave Days is a comical romp set in cartoony prehistoric times populated by big-jawed cavepeople and lots of dinosaurs. It tells the story of two prehistoric buddies—Ugo and Dawson—who make their way across the prehistoric world and encounter all sorts of adventures. Along the way they’ll do everything from get married to forage for food, square off against toothy predators of all shapes and sizes, and clamber past obstacles like yawning chasms and rocky precipices.

All told, Cave Days has 30 levels spread out across four worlds, and each level sports a variety of different goals you have to complete in order to progress to the next stage. A lot of these have to do with eating: Collecting certain kinds of fruit, for example, or picking up some fresh meat. Being cavemen, Dawson and Ugo are equipped with a trusty club, and occasionally find piles of stone they can pick up and use as projectile weapons.

The level designs themselves are pretty standard fare: You’ll need to climb up and down vines and ladders, pass over pits, water hazards, lava pools, and such; occasionally trigger an unlocking mechanism such as a rock that will cause a platform to move into place; and so on.

There are no rendered graphics that demand a heavy toll on your Mac’s graphics processor—all the artwork is bitmapped, and the game looks the better for it. This is strictly a classic-style, 2-D action game. The backgrounds don’t scroll, either: Ugo and Dawson walk from side to side, and at the edge they’ll go to the next screen, so you’re never quite sure what’s coming.

So Easy, A Caveman Could Do It Experienced gamers won’t find Cave Days terribly challenging, but it’s a good option for kids or casual gamers who don’t care for tough action titles.

There are a bunch of interstitial cutscenes that help move the game along storywise, and as each you play each level, a map will show you how far you’ve come along the way. Typically, to unlock a new level, you’ll need to collect a certain amount of gems, which you’ll get as rewards or you’lll find along the way. The game will save as you complete each level, so you can quit whenever you want to without having to start over again.

Because they’re cartoon cavemen, Ugo and Dawson have to face off against cartoon dinosaurs. They can knock them out with their clubs, then either sidestep them, toss them away into a deep pit, or stuff them in their backpack (handy when they get back home to use as a food supply).

Cave Days features quite a menagerie—everything from the mostly harmless red dinos to vicious and fast raptors, spiders, fishes, pterodactyls, even a great big Tyrannosaurus Rex that you’ll have to face off against, eventually. There are other characters the two main leads in this game have to communicate with, such as the wise old man Oberon and Ula, Dawson’s bride. All told, Insolita has done a great job making Cave Days a fun world to explore and a lot of fun to play.

Cave Days sports an original soundtrack, and the graphics are good. Unfortunately, the underpinning engine—Director MX—doesn’t produce a Universal Binary, so this game runs pokily on an Intel-based Mac. System requirements are fairly modest by today’s standards, though, demanding 1GHz G4 or better.

A few users have reported bugs and glitches in the game on Insolita’s Web site, which has been fixed with an update that’s available for download (1.1). I played that updated version, so I didn’t see the problems those users reported.

Ultimately, Cave Days is a very forgiving game—perhaps a bit too forgiving for experienced gamers, but quite good for casual gamers who rarely, if ever, touch action titles, and super for kids. (My 7-year-old can’t get enough of games like this). I didn’t find it particularly challenging—I was able to sleepwalk through a few levels.

The bottom line

Cave Days is a bit of Fred Flintstone-style retro-fun—cute graphics, pleasant soundtrack but ultimately unchallenging for experienced gamers.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Great character design, funny movies, and lots of comical action

    Cons

    • Director MX engine isn’t Universal
    • Gameplay not challenging for experienced gamers
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