Oldschool Gaming - reviewing new games on classic computers
Main review :: written by Andy 

Well, there I was a few weeks ago sifting through the latest releases on the C64 Scene Database, when all of a sudden, up pops Cavelon64, a brand new game by Brueggi of Byte Bandits. The name alone immediately conjured up memories from my C64 past and all those early Commodore games with the "64" in the title. Go on, admit your age! Adopters of Commodore's legendary machine in the early to mid 1980's must have at least a few games or the heavily "vaunted" office applications with a "64" in the title; I'll admit to Arcadia 64 and Sub Hunt 64 amongst a few other magazine BASIC listings and compilations.

Visiting the CSDb page for Cavelon64 in order to download said game didn't inspire confidence, if I'm to be honest; some of the user comments were less than enthusiastic and the preview screen dump wasn't exactly showing the C64 stretched to its limits graphically. But still, graphics do not a game make, so one download later and I was playing this new production. The aim of the game is quite simple - guide a balloon through a hazardous cave, full of mazes and obstacles. Why on Earth the balloon is in the cave in the first place is left to the imagination - there is no story or premise to this game and to be honest, none is really needed.

The first few goes of this game had me fiddling with my speaker volume control and checking the leads and wiring because of a lack of sound. Then it struck me - there is no sound! No famous SID track, not even a buzz, burp or bleep. Oh, foolish me! In game, I found the graphics, er... purely functional would be an extremely kind description on this occasion. The balloon does not animate at all, not even in "death"; the game just kind of freezes when it touches any of the on-screen objects and the game only continues when your press the fire button. The on-screen hazards continue this animationless (hmmm... new word there! © 2008 A. Vaisey) trend; the, what I assume to be electricity sparks, merely drift leisurely across the screen without any of the motion associated with actual, real life electricity and the, um, "bar type things" just blink in and out. The rest of the graphics are brown, yellow and kind of "bricky" in a maze sort of way.

FLOATY LIGHT
But as I mentioned earlier, sound and graphics don't make games, regardless of what kids today think. It has been said often enough in these hallowed web pages that gameplay is key and believe it or not, there is a fun game in here crying to get out. Why only crying to get out? Well, as it stands, Cavelon64 feels unfinished. A good example of this, occasional erratic scrolling and lack of sound aside, is the control of the balloon. Now, don't get me wrong, when I push up on my joystick the balloon moves up and so on but, whereas in other games I actually feel a connection with and in control of my spaceship/car/creature/whatever, here the control feels kind of distanced; it's almost as if I can actually hear the underlying code saying, "Okay, he's pushed up, I'd better change the coordinates of the sprite then... and fast!!". I think what I'm saying here is that maybe I would have liked the balloon movement to be smoother and slower, perhaps with a little inertia. Many a time I crashed into the hazards because the balloon "slid" too many pixels too quickly, even though I literally tapped the joystick. Also worth mentioning is the fact that on a few occasions, Cavelon64 does commit the ultimate sin - you must choose a path through the maze and some lead to a dead end and unavoidable destruction. In addition, some of the twists and bends where you have to double back on yourself are bordering on the ludicrous. I'm sorry, that's just cheap in my book.

I must admit nevertheless, even though I may risk being laughed at by some, I found Cavelon64 an addictive little game for a few hours on the evening I downloaded it. I will say it is a monstrously difficult, unforgiving game (there is a way to cheat some of the more difficult hazards, but I won't spoil it for you...), but I think this really high difficulty level actually urged me on - I didn't want to be beaten by this simple piece of coding! A slight confession though, I was playing in "competition mode" where you get unlimited lives and the object is to navigate the maze to it's conclusion using as few as possible; in "normal mode" you get only three lives and if you can complete this game with just those then you're some kind of mega joystick Demi-god. If you're a hair puller, however, don't play this for too long unless you fancy going Kojak. And if you think I'm joking, give it a try. It may just give you twenty minutes of entertainment...maybe.

Second opinion :: written by Jason 

Everybody likes balloons, especially bright red ones that are filled with helium; after all, how many times can you remember being scared of a balloon... unless you're Patrick McGoohan (although the Rover balls were white) or perhaps traumatised by that Doctor Who story "Human Nature"... perhaps this is the world where balloon creatures come from, it would explain why that one was so grumpy! But I digress somewhat... Cavelon64 is a very simple game where the objective is merely to guide the aforementioned balloon through a series of tunnels, dodging the walls and trying not to go pop.

Graphically there isn't a lot going on; the balloon itself is reasonably well defined and what level graphics there are look okay but there really isn't anything amazing here; there are bricks, pyramids, walls that blink in and out of existence like a faulty neon sign and bolts of energy that, rather surprisingly, have holes in, meaning that they're not so much a case of a Jacob's ladder, more laddered. And the sound, as Andy has rightly pointed out, will almost immediately have players reaching for the volume control... to confirm that the speakers are actually switched on!

Straight off the bat this game is out to burst the player's bubble, so to speak; just about every gap in the landscape that the balloon must move through is only just big enough to accommodate it and the collisions are handled by the hardware so, barring the darkest background colour, they're absolutely pixel perfect. And it really doesn't help that there are a few flaws in there too, mistakes that in all honesty really shouldn't be there unless independent playtesters didn't gave the game a once over before release; the scrolling in particular appears to drop frames whenever the flashing walls change states which means that there is, for example, a diagonal tunnel between a couple of pyramids that should theoretically be easy to traverse simply by holding the joystick up and left that is in fact significantly more difficult because the scrolling and balloon movement don't stay in sync.

To a certain extent I actually had some fun Cavelon64 despite all of the faults (and needing to play some music after the first five minutes, I'd forgotten how annoying silent games can be). These things are easy to get into and, even with the frustrating difficulty level present in this particular example, it was still possible to wring at least a little enjoyment from the thing. I'd have to say that playing on a real machine with a good joystick is an absolute must because the speed of the balloon, some ridiculously tight manoeuvring spaces and that regular jittering of the background scrolling all collaborate to make this a pretty evil game to play; the competition mode, one of very few concessions made to the player, is almost an essential feature because otherwise the average player wouldn't see more than a tiny fraction of the overall game map otherwise. If you like screaming obscenities at your screen and have the patience of a saint give Cavelon64 a try, otherwise it would probably best to pass on this one.

Information

CAVELON 64

Format Commodore 64
Developer Timo Brueggmann
Released 2008
Price N/A
Review Andy and Jason
Download Available
Screenshots
Titles Screen
Titles Screen
In-game Screen
In-game Screen
Scores
Graphics
Sound
Playability
Lastability
3
0
4
3
   Overall 3
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