Peru, 1950. Strange signs have appeared in the misty mountains. You, a famous spelunker, head to the area to investigate them.. Such is the humble premise of Cavenaut, an exploration-based action-adventure game by Bruno Marcos. Don't think that the ruins of Machu Picchu will reveal their secrets so easily, however. Snake, Bat, Spike, and Spear stand in your path, and if you hope for mysteries to be unraveled, you must be quick of both mind and fingers.
Viewing the area from a top-down perspective, move your character with the [arrow] keys. You're going to want to start by heading to the right to pick up the shovel, a useful tool that will help you clear out loosely packed dirt and other parts of scenery. Wield it (and any other items you find) in the four cardinal directions with [WASD]. While it's best to discover the mechanics of Cavenaut for yourself, generally you will explore ruins, finding artifacts which will unlock new areas for you to explore. In addition to the general darkness of unmapped territory (which goes away as soon as it is explored), hazards such as the pattern-following snakes, the random-walking bats, the straight-line shooting arrows, and extending/retracting spikes will kill you if you so much as graze them. Expect death, and lots of it.
With a challenge level that's brutal, but fair, Caveanut has the addictive quality of the most punishing of retro-styled games. Is every playthrough somewhat an exercise in masochism? Yeah, probably. However, frustration is counteracted by constant sense of progression. Death only sends you back to the beginning of the screen, and since each step you take will often reveal more of the danger within each room, it never feels like your efforts are wasted. At its best, Cavenaut feels like a magnificent long-lost Indiana Jones Atari game, capturing in equal parts the excitement and danger of exploring a place long hidden from human eyes. Cavenaut loses itself a bit in the mid-game, with a number of water-flow puzzles that require just a little too much pixel-perfect reaction time, and a few "Oh wait, that wasn't the friggin' final level?" moments. That said, Cavenaut is a very clever kind of game that takes its time in building to satisfying conclusion. You'll need a hundred lives to complete it, but they'll all be good ones.
Download the free full version