For a brief, shining period, the video game industry seemed to become obsessed with cavemen. We’re not sure why this is – the Flintstones remake can’t have accounted for all of it. Bonk’s Adventure, Caveman Games, BC Racers, Joe & Mac, Bignose the Caveman and more absolutely flooded the market with Mesozoic mascots. Titus’ DOS hop n’ bopper, Prehistorik, begat Prehistorik 2, which ultimately begat SNES title Prehistorik Man – the subject of this review. Following ports to both Game Boy Advance and DSiWare, it’s dropped on the Switch’s SNES app – and if you’ve spent the last 28 years ignoring it, now’s the time to give it a look.
It’s a strangely forward-thinking game, despite being set in the stone age. As well as expansive yet tightly-packed platforming levels rammed to the gills with bonuses and secrets, there’s also a decent line in gadgetry, offering that old-school “gameplay variation” by virtue of stages where you bounce around on a pogo stick or hang-glide across vast chasms. It has an Amiga-ish feel to its level design, but things are generally spruced up to suit the SNES audience who prefer their games a little less… abstract.
Digging up (literally and figuratively) every last item in a level for that coveted 100% is no mean feat – it’s worth it, because Prehistorik Man is not an easy game at all. Your character – Sam – moves somewhat erratically, slipping and sliding when at full running speed, required to make most of the major jumps. He’s not defenceless, but his club attack is a touch, well, rubbish. The range is very limited and it’s all too easy to accidentally nudge a moving enemy and take a hit. Thankfully Sam can also jump on his foes as well as occasionally utilise a bizarre, screen-clearing scream attack.
Prehistorik Man isn’t really about the combat, though – it’s a reflex test through and through, constantly mounting up its demands and introducing new, interesting set-pieces; the stage in which you escape upward through a burning tree is a bit of an unsung SNES classic, as far as we’re concerned. It's also attractive, colourful and cartoony, with some good atmosphere creeping into the stages once you get through the first area.
The aforementioned difficulty becomes something of a moot point in this Switch release, of course – state saving and the rewind feature mitigate any possible challenge the game could realistically offer. We’d suggest keeping their use to a minimum; the game is much more fun when you have to actively make use of the boons it affords you as a reward for extensive exploration.
An under-rated title, Prehistorik Man is a lovely addition to the SNES line-up on Switch. Its distinctly European flavour is not going to be for everyone, but the lovely cartoon graphics and rewarding level design should, in a good and just world, be universally appealing. It makes a nice Switch companion piece for Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics, anyway. Now, can we please keep the cro-magnon classics coming? Congo’s Caper and Chuck Rock will do nicely.