Monday, August 19, 2013

"Caveman Games", NES, 1990.

Ah, 1990, when cavemen were not yet a played-out cliche (would that be 1991's Encino Man?), being used to inject new life into track-and-field sporting simulation compilations (which Epyx had pretty much sucked the last breath out of). The big head-scratcher -- years later, I learned that this game was developed by Dynamix, in a huge side-step from their incremental company path of innovating with cinematic 3D presentations, from Arctic Fox to Stellar 7 to David Wolf to Deathtrack to Red Baron to Starsiege: Tribes virtually uninterrupted for a decade and a half. (The Incredible Machine and the DGDS adventure games -- Rise of the Dragon, Willy Beamish, etc. -- were also tangents, but ones that were pursued with rigor. This blip seems almost accidental.) The skein is somewhat tangled, but I gather they developed the game for publisher EA, who then licensed the NES port to Data East. This ad is sourced from NESWORLD's collection of ad scans.

CROSS TRAINING
CAVEMAN STYLE

Dino-Vaulting "Me do Dino Vault to bully Gronk no call me cave-girl no more. Also hope Crudla watch me - she one cave-babe!" - Vincent

Sabertooth Tiger Race "Race not easy. Hungry sabertooth chase me. But me use competitor as shield. Better him cat food than me kitty litter." - Glunk

Clubbing "Me love bashing - have best club. Cavemen head only thing harder than club. But hard to aim with head. So use club." - Gronk

Mate Toss "Me know best way to handle mate - by feet. Grab mate by feet and spin, spin, spin - then let go. Make world record." - Crudla

Dino Race "Me best dino jockey. Before race, tell dino he no win, me make dino steaks for dinner - and he guest of honor. He run good." - Ugha

Firestarting "Firestarting easy. Rub sticks make spark. Me make big fire - stay warm. Too warm - fire burn clothes. Then me learn firestopping." - Thag

Welcome to sports training -- 2 million B.C.! Forget jogging and weightlifting - Caveman Games is for serious athletics. Six radical Neanderthals compete in hilarious and dangerous events. Winners join the Caves of Fame; losers join the fossils! Struggling to survive has never been so much fun! Get bashed, beaten, chased and eaten in the greatest pre-hysterical challenge ever. It's cool cave action for one to six players!

The game's humour, hard to inject into a sports game, is appreciated (well, mostly -- the retrograde "mate toss" event is only funny if you're eleven years old, as I was when this game was released) and reflected in the ad copy, both in the athlete's strategy blurbs and the bottom text, which admittedly tries a bit too hard. "bashed, beaten, chased and eaten" works; "Cave of Fame" and "pre-hysterical" does not. (Then there are obligatory shout-outs to 1990 like "cool cave" and "radical Neanderthals" -- hello, did I mention Encino Man?)

I do like the way the ad is splayed out against a stony glacier-carved cave backdrop -- or at least someone's weathered cement driveway. They really miss out on downplaying the game's 6-player-ness, making it that rarest of titles -- something suitable for the whole family.