Roguelites have become a pervasive thing over the last few years, strapping iconic elements like permadeath from actual roguelikes onto a variety of different genres. Caveblazers is the latest platformer to attempt to ruin your sanity.
Caveblazers has you entering a cave network and navigating an array of enemies and traps in search of some mythical mystery hidden within. You do this using a variety of weapons, artifacts and mystical blessings to progress through each level, taking on a boss every few levels before the game brutally kills you.
Structurally it’s exactly what you’d expect from a roguelite, you have a hub from which you can customise your character’s look and perks, choose to enter the cave normally or initiate a daily run mode. From the hub you can also check your overall game completion and witness quips from a cantankerous old man who likes to tell you that you are wasting your time.
Mechanically it also shares a lot of familiar DNA with other popular games in the genre like Spelunky and Risk of Rain. Especially in the procedurally generated levels, they look familiar even though Caveblazers has its own unique pixel art style. Within the levels you are tasked with finding the exit whilst trying to avoid coming to a grisly end from a wide plethora of quirky enemies from fantasy faithful goblins and orcs to slimes and bats. The enemies are extremely good at stalking you across the map once alerted and can really pose a challenge.
Your character fights using both melee and ranged attacks, initially with a sword and a bow, with a much more detailed combat system compared to other games in the genre. With the initial sword you can make regular swings as well as swing upwards and do a jumping downward strike. Along with the mobility afforded by being able to wall jump, being able to fire your bow in the eight cardinal directions gives you a wide variety of attack vectors.
Weaponry, equipment and rings are the main items you’ll be finding as you smash boxes and pots and open chests. These can have a variety of effects, from simple statistical bonuses to firing lightning or having a flying skull accompany you attacking enemies. Often the items you find will nudge you towards playing a particular playstyle, improving ranged to the detriment of melee or vice-versa.
This focus on combat makes Caveblazers feel a lot more like an action title compared to the often more puzzle-like feel of Spelunky. The smaller sprites can often make close quarters fighting feel a little unfair and mashy however but it is something you get used to.
You’ll also come across a variety of altars, some offering health for gold or even items for health. As well as altars, there are a variety of blessings that give a variety of bonuses, these are typically in a set of three where you can only choose one. Blessings can provide major perks such as the ability to double jump or make melee hits affect nearby enemies. These can really change up how you play your current character.
Every few floors you’ll have to take on a boss, there are multiple bosses for each area and they are all evil. Like in most games once you've learnt their patterns you are fine but they can be brutal. They are a varied bunch from giant worms to evil floating eyeballs of laser death, it’s definitely got a unique charm in how it expects you to die.
Along the way you’ll also come across friendly adventurers who will assist you. Like the monsters they do a good job in trying to follow you around the map although they can get stuck in pits and similar obstacles from time to time. This does help make the world feel a little bit less empty, seeing little pixelated adventurers trying to help at the very least can bring a smile when they get stuck.
Caveblazers is a very competent roguelite that has very little to fault from a gameplay perspective. The controls are tight and responsive, the items and perks in the game are interesting and the enemies are fun to fight. It all just feels so derivative of other titles with very little in the way of unique features to make it stand out.
If you are in the market for something that blends elements of Spelunky, Risk of Rain and The Binding of Isaac then you can do far worse than this, just be prepared for very little in the way of surprises.
Caveblazers (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
A competent if uninspiring roguelite platformer that provides a fun, challenging time with lots of things to unlock. Satisfying combat and challenging enemy AI makes the moment to moment gameplay worth a look.