I've noticed, since starting Browser Rousers, that I'm slowly moving away from JUST browser-only games. Please indulge me in this.
Today's example? Cave Story! Yes, everyone and their mother has probably played it now - it's on the Wii and the DSi, for pete's sake - but I just had to review it after finally sitting down and committing to the thing. Turns out I couldn't put it down 'til I'd beaten it.
Cave Story is a plot-intensive game, despite its status as a platforming shooter. The details get complex, but I'll try to sum up in a paragraph:
You are a robot. You wake up inside a floating island, your brain scrambled and memories gone, and discover that the indigenous population - fluffy white creatures called Mimigas - are being terrorized by a man known only as 'The Doctor', who forces them into servitude. Being a naturally heroic sort of robot you agree to help the Mimigas oust the Doctor and restore peace to their home.
Is it really that simple? Of course not. Cave Story LOOKS cutesy, but its plot is surprisingly adult, involving a lot of murder and evil plots and generally bad stuff. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of humour, but it's not a kiddy game.
Beyond that, Cave Story is a platformer. You have a gun, you run around killing stuff with that gun. You get more guns, along with items that will help you progress. It's all good.
Cave Story ABSOLUTELY REQUIRES precision controls. I do not jest. It doesn't start off terribly difficult, but about halfway through the game you'll start taking a lot of damage if you don't plant your landings properly.
And, uh, Cave Story is... not bad. I guess. The controls are designed in such a way that your little robot has a tendency to drift a little on landings, and he doesn't move terribly fast. I wouldn't mind these two facts so much if he ALWAYS went the way you want him to, but in some cases - particularly when using the Booster - he doesn't always respond as needed. You get a fair amount of health so this isn't so bad, but you'll probably curse the robot for not heeding commands on many occasions.
That said, there is one REALLY nice thing in your favour: hit detection. I've noticed that enemy fire has to hit the core of your robot's body to really stick. In most cases projectiles can soar right through your head without doing damage. Take advantage of this generosity whenever possible.
Considering it was created half a decade ago, Cave Story holds up nicely. The sprites are cutely basic, true, but that's only true of the small guys - the bosses in Cave Story generally look quite cool. There are also numerous zones for you to explore, providing unique tile sets each time. Much appreciated. I have no complaints about Cave Story's visuals.
Dynamic and loud. Cave Story does suit its music to the surrounding atmosphere, yes, but in general this game goes for blaring and bombastic in its tunes. There's lots of variation, that said, and it all works. I especially enjoyed Balrog's music, because that meant Balrog was in the room, and he's always amusing. (You'll learn who he is if you play the game. Look for the soap bar with legs.)
Cave Story is one of those awesome games with multiple ways to play, though you probably won't realize as such on your first go. The easy path through the game is obvious, and appropriately easy(ish)... but it won't net you all of the content. You need to answer questions differently to play through the whole game, including two secret areas that are INCREDIBLY difficult.
The fact that you determine your difficulty through playing is both good and bad. It's good in that players are rewarded for curiosity and replay - but it's bad in that a single decision will completely change your destiny near the end. In short, if you miss something just once, you'll muck up your ending and not have a chance to go back. You have to do everything EXACTLY RIGHT to see everything Cave Story has to offer, and often that EXACTLY RIGHT is time sensitive. More chances for redeeming your play through would be ideal.
Or? Even better? Multiple save files. The one, and only one, kinda sucks.
Cave Story is a lot of fun. The game play and story are both worthy of a full-fledged, pay-for-me game (and you can do that now), and there's enough content to warrant multiple play-throughs. Just one tip for the unwary: if you wanna save your pal Curly, prepare for a hell of a game. You've been warned.
PLAY CAVE STORY