When some children from a prehistoric tribe are abducted by aliens (as is prone to happen in video games), four brave warriors set out to get them back. In gameplay terms this translates into eight levels of (mostly) platforming action as you bash a variety of baddies and avoid the perilous drops. You can tackle the adventure offered by Caveman Warriors alone or you can have up to three friends join you.

The four warriors have different weapons and some unique moves that are required (or are just the best choice) in certain situations. For example, Jack has a Wario-like charging attack to clear away enemies and smash blocks that would otherwise prevent progress through the level. Brienne carries a slab of meat for a weapon and this can be used as a shield against attacks (even machine gun fire), whilst Moe has a dancing two-headed monkey (no, really) which can be used to distract enemies. Perhaps the most useful character is Lilliana, whose spears can be used to create a temporary platform but are also very effective at picking off enemies at a distance.

These differences make for some good co-op multiplayer as each player steps up to help when required, whether that’s the distraction from Moe’s monkey causing a door to open, or a thrown axe from Jack being the best way to deal with an enemy in the area below. When playing solo (or without the full four players), characters can be cycled through at any point, allowing you to call into action the required hero before switching back to your preferred choice.

The controls work well despite some jump button strangeness. There’s the standard jump, while pressing up with jump will perform a higher leap. Helpfully this also has its own button, but whilst the standard jump can be used in lots of situations, it’s rare that it’s actually required.

Visually the game looks fine, using a bright cartoony style with a variety of different locations visited and a good range of enemies encountered. There’s the occasional moment where heads and limbs move as if they are attached by brass fasteners, but there are some great character designs and the between-level comic panels work well. Beginning in stone age locations, the story moves into a UFO before ending up in a relatively modern setting where gun-totting soldiers are encountered. Other foes encountered during your quest include tribe members, aggressive plants, pterodactyls, robots and a He-Man lookalike.

Controller vibrations occur when hit, but these seem a bit heavier than necessary, serving to annoy rather than immerse. The audio does add to the atmosphere however, with good sound effects for hits, smashes, splashes and caveman growls. Music also serves the action well, quite relaxed but with moments of excitement and mystery in different moments; the cave level working particularly well with the background effects.

With the various foes attacking you in different ways (some have homing attacks, for instance), dealing with them leads to some fun gameplay challenges as you work out how best to get through these dangers. There’s also plenty of frustration however due to the large knock-backs when you receive a hit. Get caught by an attack and often you will receive a hit to your health, then be sent flying backwards into a pit where a further deduction from your energy bar occurs. Assuming you have enough health left, you then respawn on a floating platform, although is not always ideally placed - leading to a tricky initial jump as you try to avoid getting locked in a cycle of getting hit, then falling in a pit.

Making your task a bit easier are health-restoring items, dropped by enemies and smashed items. Also helpful is the fact that you begin each level with four lives and this stock (as well as your energy) is replenished when you reach one of the three checkpoints; the final one typically being located just prior to the boss. It doesn’t completely eliminate the frustrations, especially as some areas have awkwardly-placed attackers, but once you’ve got used to each section, it becomes easier to navigate. Boss fights are fun and tough until you've figured out weak points and when you can get your attack in. The exception to this is the one at the end of the seventh level, who is strangely easy to dispatch.

Each level has three fuses hidden within the level for you to try and seek out. This is generally optional, but you need four to access the sixth stage onwards. That’s not too difficult however and you’ll stumble across a few without even trying. Further fuse collection will open up harder versions of the levels if you’d like a tougher challenge. In the regular versions of the levels the difficulty curve is well-judged, so while knock-backs continue to irritate you won’t suddenly be overwhelmed by the challenge.

Although most of your time in Caveman Warriors will be spent platforming there are two stages that offer a different way to play. The penultimate level sticks you in a plane and tasks you with shooting down the enemy forces. Though offering a change of pace, it’s a quite slow-moving and while there's some fun to be had from shooting balloons to send a girder into the path of a plane (or to drop a sniper to the ground below), it’s not the most entertaining part of the game.

That award goes to the third level, which has you riding a Tricerotops as you attempt to outrun a pursuing posse of goons. Rocks and signs slow you down and you have a cannon you can use to pick off smaller members of the gang and push back the large (eventual boss) one. A couple of slip ups and it's soon over, but it's a lot of fun.

Conclusion

It's a short game, but Caveman Warriors still entertains as you work through the levels figuring out how best to deal with the threats encountered and then how to defeat the bosses. There's some good character designs in the game and fun moments - like the way scared foes flee in panic only to knock themselves out by running into a wall. It's not without fault however, with the over-the-top knock-backs from hits being the biggest irritant. There's some replayability in trying to track down all the fuses and then tackle the harder versions of the levels and the co-op play works well. If you've got some friends around and are looking to pass the time with some platforming action, then Caveman Warriors is a good pick.