Monday, 12 July 2010

Budget Games #2

Caves of Doom, The (1985)
By: Mr. Chip Software / Mastertronic Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: 112
Also Available For: Nothing

As one of the first budget games I ever played, this title is planted firmly in my memories of the trusty Speccy, but another reason is its toughness: "Whilst exploring the planet Doom you were captured by the guards of the ruthless Lords of Darkness. You are now imprisoned in caves deep within the bowels of Doom but are determined to escape. To do so you must find five keys, one of which is in three pieces, which are scattered around the caves. However the odds are laid against you as the Lord of Darkness has laid traps in the caves and has sent many thousands of his bloodthirsty minions to thwart your mission. You are unarmed and, therefore, must use your wits to avoid certain death on Doom..." Well, that's all according to the cassette inlay, anyway! You'd think with a name like 'Planet Doom', people would be a bit more cautious before engaging in exploratory tomfoolery.

Anyway, having now been given the unenviable task of guiding the foolish (and nameless) spaceman to safety, it's your job to make your way through 40-odd screens of the worst terrors the 'Lords of Darkness' can throw at you. Taking the form of a flick-screen platform game, Caves of Doom is a fairly generic game of its type. As they made a point of mentioning in the inlay quote, you're unarmed, so it's merely a case of making your way around each screen, avoiding the dangers and obstacles in each as you go. And there are dangers aplenty too (although perhaps not to the enormous scale the instructions imply!). There are various autonomous sentries that move up and down or left to right in regular patterns, wall-mounted guns, and all manner of spikes, what looks like plants, and parts of platforms that will kill you.

Your most formidable adversary, however, is a simple-looking stick man who automatically (and very quickly) homes in on your location as soon as you enter any room that he's in. In fact, nearly anything you can touch will kill you instantly! Luckily, however, you'll just restart the screen you died on rather than go back to the start. To get around the rooms, your spaceman can obviously walk on the flat platforms but he can also fly too. Some sections are blocked off by coloured barriers which you must collect the corresponding keys to get past. Flying uses fuel however, which must be replenished by collecting the magenta triangles which, of course, are often located in the most inconvenient places possible, surrounded by spikes and the like! In fact, this game is very much from the Manic Miner school of precision movement, i.e. playing the same screen over and over again until you get it right! Suffice to say, it's a real tough game and one which I've never managed to finish.

As you might expect for a budget game, particularly an early one, Caves of Doom is fairly basic in appearance, but, besides a bit of colour clash, it's certainly neat and colourful. Sound is almost non-existent with just a few sound effects, including an annoying 'death noise', although it might just be annoying purely because of how often you hear it when playing! I have a lot of memories of trying to conquer this bloody game and in the intervening years it's not gotten any easier! It's addictive though, and remains enjoyable to play in short bursts. It even has a screen editor which lets you mess around with the screen layouts and then play them! Overall, it's a simple game, but it is a budget game and was well worth a bash for its price back then. If you like hardcore platformers like the Miner Willy ones, give it a try.

RKS Score: 7/10

Gameplay Video: here's a video of the whole game being played by one of the talented fellows at RZX Archive (check out their great channel here). Oh, and don't watch if you want to avoid spoilers!


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