Classics of the 8-bit and 16-bit era had something of a hate-hate relationship with kooky old scientists — whether in the form of Dr. Wily or Ivo Robotnik, the genius was always someone to be beaten down and conquered. Cascadia Games wasn’t comfortable letting that era rest on such a note, so taking inspiration from H.G. Wells, they stepped into the videogame time machine and gave mad scientists an heroic adventure in their refreshing platform-action puzzler, Cavorite (Out Now, $1.99)!
Fresh off his discovery of an anti-gravity substance – named after himself, naturally – Dr. Cavor immediately sets off in a spaceship to become the first man on the moon. Things go just swimmingly until he and his ship are abducted by little green men on the moon’s surface. Armed only with a spray gun full of Cavorite and his own meager jumping and crate-pushing ability, Dr. Cavor must navigate his way through sixty mazes until he rendezvous with his ship, snatching trinkets useful for its repair along the way.
Cavorite‘s anti-gravity premise promises plenty of interesting puzzles, and here Cascadia Games prove themselves masters of level design! Invariably creative as they are miniature, the game’s levels serve up bursts of navigation challenge that require mind-bending solutions. The core gameplay mechanic here is spraying the titular Cavorite on crates: so that Dr. Cavor can use them like balloons to augment his jumping ability, temporarily enable switches, or squash alien adversaries. Miraculously, the game remains conceptually simple without becoming a one-trick pony. Levels continually stir in new surprises to keep the player off balance, introducing new threats or requiring that Dr. Cavor make his enemies unwittingly take part in solutions.
Insight alone doesn’t suffice in Cavorite. Once the player has figured out how every crate, switch, elevator and enemy can be used to reach a level’s exit portal, he or she must call on platforming talent to burst through windows of opportunity that tend to be quite unforgiving. Dr. Cavor will frequently find himself sandwiched between sealed doors or in pits he can’t jump out of, and the level will have to be re-started from scratch when this happens. Cavorite leaves that decision completely in the player’s hands unless the good doctor should happen to jump into lava or get skewered on some other form of one-hit death. The combined swiftness of brain and fingers required here leaves Cavorite one of the more challenging titles on iOS, but the developer evens things out by letting players skip over levels that prove too irksome — a bit of a difficulty breaker, but also a nice gesture in letting all players experience the entirety of its content.
While Cavorite’s virtual button interface performs flawlessly in the more methodical levels, stages that require swift-footed platforming reveal that the game’s action aspect doesn’t always fare as well as its puzzle design. During the most intense segments, the player’s thumb can glide so swiftly across movement buttons that the change in input might not register at a critical moment, and the jump button can also feel sticky if it’s tapped too frantically. Interface issues don’t crop up often enough to put much of a damper on the player’s overall experience, but they do interrupt the heights of gaming bliss from time to time.
Cavorite‘s 16-bit visual style is absolutely charming, the doctor’s sprite full of life as he fidgets and keeps an eye out for danger. Its music proves more 8-bit than 16-bit, tracks wearing out their welcome over the lifespan of the game’s formidable multi-level environments; nor is the release version of Cavorite friendly to external music in my experience. A given stage may last anywhere from fifteen seconds to five minutes, but the game’s length should average out to around three hours if the player completes every level without skipping.
iFanzine Verdict: Cascadia Games has gone back in time and returned with a classic! Whether you’re a casual puzzle fan or an old school platformer enthusiast, Cavorite’s mix of clever logic puzzles and action adventure should strongly appeal.