If you find this name to be rather weird but the characters seem familiar, you may remember this game as Joe & Mac. Data East’s old games seem to have a lot of weird naming patterns; the arcade originals may be titled as one thing, but any future releases for consoles and the like carry the titles that more people would remember. In this case, someone had the bright idea of calling Joe & Mac‘s original arcade release “Caveman Ninja“. I’m not sure where the ninja part comes in, but they sure are cavemen.
Much like a lot of games back in the day, the game revolves around the kidnappings of damsels in distress. Facing whatever dangers are out there, it’s up to Joe & Mac to conquer all evils and rescue the women.
For a game of its era, Caveman Ninja has impressively large spritework. The characters are expressive in a cartoon-y sort of way and are fun to look at in that regard. The grassy jungles are lush and filled with details; backgrounds are particularly nice to look at. The game as whole has a lively nature to it and I think that works well in its favor. If anything, the caveman theme could be boring if you don’t find any sort of appeal to it.
Caveman Ninja doesn’t have a big quantity in its soundtrack (There are more pieces dedicated to its good/bad endings than there are for stages), but the quality is certainly there. It is clearly inspired by the caveman setting it is meant to accompany, but it fits the levels well as a result. The boss theme is also an intense bit of music.
After having played other games by Data East up to this point, I think I can safely say cheap difficulty is a recurring theme they used to embrace. Caveman Ninja has a nasty habit of flooding the screen with enemies you can’t react to all at once. Joe & Mac have a semi-decent range of abilities, from their high jumps to throwing projectiles at bad guys.
The level designs have a decent variety of enemy types and linear layouts, but the feel isn’t exactly as free-flowing as games like the Mario series. It’s about as archaic as beat ’em up titles like Data East’s own Bad Dudes. Even if you were to abuse the emulator’s credits system, it isn’t like other arcade games where you could instantly continue where you left off. You have to restart the level or boss from the beginning, which means you’ll have no choice but to face, say, the same boss over and over until you’ve finally learned through it enough to just barely scrape by (provided you have the reflexes and timing down to even do that with the slow-paced protagonists).
Caveman Ninja can still be fun for those that grew up with the game in some form, but there’s only so far the game could be recommended to other players. If you were to pick any of Data East’s titles released so far, I suggest looking into Super Burgertime.
Review copy provided by Flying Tiger Entertainment