Caves aren’t typically nice places. Unlike Hobbit caves, and Dwarf caves, regular caves lack the finesse of the more homely variety. Caves also bring danger, usually in the form of unknown heights, treacherous underfoot, and even monsters. The legendary cave in Caveblazers is precisely why people shouldn’t go into dangerous caves unaided, and why sometimes it’s easier to listen to a cranky old man giving out warnings. In a typically Legend of Zelda fashion, the player arrives at the mouth of the cave, where a figure awaits them. After a little explanation, and more warnings than are really nesserery, you’re allowed to head down into the belly of the beast. And what a beast it is.

As a 2D side-scrolling platformer with roguelike elements, Caveblazers instantly draws close parallels to another indie gem, Risk of Rain, with its mechanics. The only goal is to somehow reach the end of the cave, where apparent fortune awaits, along with great power. Only drawback to this plan is that between that mysterious power, and you, is a legion of rather nasty monsters, that all want your adventuring head on a spike.

Aggressive combat coupled with a little sharp thinking is highly rewarded here. Every mob can be cut down in seconds assuming that you don’t play defensively. Switching quickly between the sword and bow is vital too, as pushing back longer range enemies before they too friendly with your HP is always advantageous. Coupled alongside these weapons, are powerful magic’s, and artefacts that change how your character gets through each area. Some are supplementary, altering how high you jump, how much damage you take, and how you survive. The rest are explosive in nature. Being able to summon powerful swords, or create a fireball can spell the difference between life and death.

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Rather uniquely, there are other NPC characters down in the cave too. They can be seen fighting with the monsters, often in small groups, and can even be made allies if assisted. The inclusion of this feature is not only great fun for the player, it adds a sense of realism to the game. Besides, fighting a boss with a pack of four adventurers is incredibly addictive.

Death itself is a key focus in Caveblazers. Each time the adventurer dies, they are sent back to the cave’s grand entrance, with the old man still shouting at them for even trying to survive. The only thing that carries over into other playthroughs of the game are the items, and perks, the player gains from EXP. As each run carries value to an overall higher counter, new tactics are unlocked as the player gets better. While slogging through the same area again, and again, can become tiresome, the game keeps it fresh by randomly generating everything. Each area layout is totally unfixed, so that no two runs are the same.

Caveblazers is a fantastic indie gem then. It takes notable elements from its cousins, wraps them all together in charming pixel aesthetics, and then adds in addictive gameplay. A fast-paced action platformer with a brutal twist, not to be missed.

Caveblazers – 88/100

Written by Matt Dawson

Developer – Rupeck Games
Publisher – Rupeck Games
Genre – Indie, Roguelike, Platformer, Action

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