Day #2: Cavemen Vs Aliens

Posted: 2010/11/11 in Indie Games
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I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #2, and today’s game is “Cavemen Vs Aliens”.

Not since Aliens Vs. Predator have Aliens had such a deadly enemy to fight as Cro-Magnon Humanity. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, and Ridley Scott had nothing to do with these particular aliens. Nonetheless, these are two well-matched opponents in the world drawn by Cavemen Vs. Aliens.

This game caught my attention in part because the cavemen vs. aliens hook harkened back to one of my favourite Amiga games: Mega Lo Mania, as it was known in the UK and Australia, and Tyrants as it was known in North America. You may also have played this game on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, the Atari ST, MS-DOS, or the Super Nintendo.

Like Mega Lo Mania, Cavemen Vs Aliens (CvA) is also a real time strategy game. The similarities don’t stop there. CvA also (intentionally or unintentionally) borrows Mega Lo Mania’s game mechanic of requiring you divide your units amongst several front, sometimes without knowing exactly how strong the opposition is going to be. This can lead to some trial and error, and you may wish to save frequently; it can also lead to satisfying victories when you came in with far too few troops but managed to pull a victory out of your hat anyway.

In the game you play as Cavemen, attempting to defend your planet from aliens wanting to put (wait for it) interstellar cellular phone transmission towers on it. The local populace is in the way and the aliens will stop at nothing to get better wireless phone service.

Rather than upgrading and micromanaging specific types of units, the game has you upgrading your entire army at once. This streamlines the play mechanics, which has you using pterodactyls to move troops around, bring them healing, bring them ammo (rocks, naturally), and retrieve them when they find themselves in a tight spot. There is some micromanagement, but it is little more than making sure your units have ammo and healing. You can queue up multiple units to get healed, each in turn, and providing ammo to a unit provides ammo to surrounding units as well. These simplified controls make sure games are fast-paced and that the player isn’t getting bogged down in minutia. And yes, that’s another thing that CvA has in common with Mega Lo Mania. Finally, levels are timed so if you haven’t won by the time the timer stops (as little as 3 minutes, based on how far in to the game I’ve played so far) then you’ll have to try again, additionally making sure games are fast and exciting.

In short, this is a real-time strategy game (RTS) for people who don’t normally like RTSs. That’s no mean feat, but CvA pulls it off. For that, I chose it for day 2 of my game-a-day extravaganza. The game costs 400 points, and be warned that if you watch all the cinemas that the demo’s time limit will run down before you play hardly any of the game at all. That said, the cut-scenes have charm to them and a nice (and very consistent) graphic style, so I played the demo twice (skipping the cinemas the second time) to get the full experience.

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