Grab Your Bombs and Pickaxe
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Cave Bad. After all, I hadn’t played through Oratio the Dwarf’s first adventure, titled Pity Pit. But what I could plainly see was that Cave Bad and Bomberman shared some DNA. Coupled with the cute pixel art and surprisingly great music, I decided to give the game a try. Join me on my quest to save Oratio’s gal pal, Gwendalina, in my Cave Bad review!
One of the elements that first excited me about Cave Bad was that it basically looked like a rogue Bomberman. As a fan of that classic series, I’m always in the market for a fresh take on it. Here, Oratio is traveling through underground lairs full of demons to save Gwendalina from the clutches of Cool-thulhu, which is essentially the 90’s “cool” version of the Lovecraftian god. Don’t ask me why Captain Tentacle Shades wants a human bride. All that really matters is getting her back.
The game plays out a lot like Bomberman mixed with The Binding Of Isaac. Each room you enter locks you in, and you have to kill all your foes to escape. Unlike Binding of Isaac, each room is essentially the same size and shape, though they still mix things up. Some rooms have lava you need to jump over, and others are full of destructible blocks. There’s not a ton of variety, but I can appreciate what’s present in the game. There are 5 different levels to play through, and each one culminates in a zany boss fight. The thing that surprised me most about those was how frantic they were. The first boss, the Bulgod, literally charges after you the moment the battle begins, and never stops willingly. I was flabbergasted by his speed at first, until I realized I could trip him up by laying bombs in his path.
That’s one thing I appreciate about Cave Bad – the subtle layers of nuance. Though the game is relatively simple, there’s a lot of small details you can use to improve your chances. For example, Oratio is armed with a pickaxe as well as bombs. While you’re more than allowed to just attack with your pickaxe, it shoots little projectiles that can also push your bombs. Or take the horrified look on Oratio’s face when he’s standing in the blast radius of his own bombs. One favorite technique of mine is tricking foes into rushing me and then halting their progress with a well-placed explosive. All these are nice touches that really give the game life and make it far more entertaining. Plus, Oratio is capable of acquiring upgrades to his tools in chests and buying things like heart shields. My favorite upgrade I got in my time with the game made me invulnerable to all explosives, which made Oratio near invincible.
As far as aesthetics and music go, Cave Bad is surprisingly great. I’m always attracted to pixel art, and though it’s pretty simplistic here, it’s also eye-catching. After all, the art is what drew me to review the game in the first place. The enemies have a lot of personality, from the running bomb foes with faces to the little devils with pitchforks. And it goes without saying the bosses are all standouts and really show some fun variety. The music, composed by novtos, is full of spunk and chiptune glory. That goes double for the sound effects, which are all vibrant 8-bit beeps and boops. Overall, the game is pretty solid when it comes to presentation.
Mostly Successful Rescue Mission
While I like an awful lot about my experience with Cave Bad, there are some rough spots. For one, the first time I played, the enemies seemed far too frenetic. Many just charge you when you enter rooms, leading to some cheap deaths. I started to get wise to this tactic as the game progressed, but it still felt a little unfair. I also was a bit frustrated by the load time before the start of each level. The game shows a screen saying “Generating,” and it lasts for almost a minute. Which isn’t that long, but when you consider Cave Bad can be beaten in less than a half-hour, it starts to seem more egregious. And although I do love the game’s pixelated art style, it needs more visual variety overall. It’s hard to tell one stage from another, other than small shifts in color and blocks.
Although the game is linear, there are some secret goodies to keep you playing more than one run. I eventually found hidden rooms that led to diabolical Marks. These eventually led me to a hidden boss that was far more challenging than Cool-thulhu. Which I do appreciate, but it brings me to my biggest critique of Cave Bad – it lacks in content. While the game isn’t expensive at all, and you do technically get your money’s worth, I just wanted an excuse to spend more time in this world. Hell, if Eastasiasoft and Panda Indie Studio is listening, I’d pay for DLC packs with additional content. Cause what’s here is actually pretty solid and fun. There just needs to be more of it.
I Can Dig It
I don’t regret taking a chance on Cave Bad. I think Panda Indie Studio has proven they’re one to watch. And I always appreciate Eastasiasoft taking a chance and publishing something quirky. What’s here is fun but over very quickly. That said, if you’re a fan of Bomberman or rogue games in general, Cave Bad is still probably worth the price of admission. I just hope Oratio the Dwarf’s next adventure is a bit more action-packed.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One; Publisher: eastasiasoft; Developer: Panda Indie Studio; Players: 1; Released: March 3, 2021; ESRB: E for Everyone, Mild Fantasy Violence; MSRP: $4.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.