Cave Story+

Cave Story CoverCave Story was originally released all the way back in 2004, with development starting five years before that by a single guy, Daisuke Amaya. The side-scrolling adventure has gained momentum over the years, and is now recognized as being one of the original independent games that has spawned what is nearly a total upheavel of the video game industry. With the Humble Indie Bundle, Steam, Desura, and a slew of very talented developers, indie games are making huge waves, and sales.

While Cave Story is available on nearly every platform, it finally hit Steam a few months ago with the release of the fourth Humble Bundle. To note the higher resolution graphics and a new soundtrack, the game was re-titled Cave Story+, but there is an option to revert to the original look and sound.

We're very happy to present Cave Story+ as our third Indie Impression, following Super Meat Boy and Dungeons of Dredmor. Blackwell Legacy will be following in a few days.


Cave Story+ felt fairly mixed to me, and it just seemed like I didn't get as much out of it as many people do. Cave Story+ is a cute/throwback action/adventure platformer that really was one of the forefathers of this indie game movement. It does a lot of things well, but none of it really impressed me enough to exude high praise.

Cave Story+ starts rather unassumingly, with your character in a cave, as one could guess. You meet many characters, including protagonists, antagonists, neutrals and civilians. You gain several unique and entertaining weapons, each part of the interesting upgrade system. You go through many varied levels, defeat bosses, and eventually head through a final cave gauntlet before meeting the final bosses and finding one of the multiple endings.

Certainly, there are plenty of reasons to like this game. Many people are attracted to the sprite-based visuals and sound. I thought both were solid, but again not spectacular. Thinking about it, what impressed me most were the controls. Your character controls extremely well and moves near-perfectly along with the camera. Certain items add a fantastic variety to what the players are capable of. The only part I didn't like was that weapon switching felt a bit clunky. You either had to exit out to the menu (which works poorly with analog control) or scroll through your entire weapon list to find the one you want.

As the game went on, I became more impressed by the variety and options and secrets that you had, which I certainly didn't expect to see. But... I don't know, it still felt too middling. I feel like a little more effort towards the story or sideplots or enemy variety or more actual exploration could have improved this game substantially. It was really extremely linear to playthrough, and these types of "metroidvania" platformers seem to thrive on exploration, which Cave Story really doesn't have. All the options available to you are right in front of your face, and it's a simple matter of choosing the "right" one. Pacing also feels a bit off, with an extremely easy and simple main game getting capped off by legitimately ending gauntlets and bosses, with a supremely difficult optional final sequence.

To summarize, I understand that Cave Story+ is a pretty good game, and I enjoyed it and respect its influence and roots, but it really never pulled me in or got my attention like it has with so many others.

Cave Story Plus Boss


I decided I had better get my impressions down for Cave Story+ before I go and beat the whole game like I did with Super Meat Boy. So far, I'm enjoying the game, it's got a nice Metroidvania-lite feel to it but also requires a lot more finger dexterity than I expected. Leveling up weapons and seeing how they change is fun, and the amount of exploration required within each level goes beyond the typical representative of the genre.

I'm about two hours in and have collected a load of guns and tons of health, watched multiple rabbit creatures die in front of me, and discovered that the machine gun doubles as a jet pack when powered up all the way! This is certainly an old school side scroller resurrected for the modern gamer, and I'm having a blast. There's decent challenge in here too, with bosses presenting their huge health bar at the bottom of the screen, and instant-kill spikes scattered around for the careless adventurer to impale themselves on.

There's also quite a bit of story, with extended talky cutscenes that interrupt the flow of the game pretty badly at times (like right before a boss, so if you die, you have to rewatch some rabbits discuss crap). There's a twist early on that may have been better served at either a later time or not at all, but maybe it will play better as the story progresses. Either way, looking forward to spelunking the rest of Cave Story+.

Cave Story Machine gun Jumping


With shades of Mega Man and Metroid, it's no wonder Cave Story was already a cult classic long before the prevalence of digital game distribution services and the resultant indie boom. Though originally released as PC freeware just over six years ago, the game has been beefed-up into a paid package for Nintendo's and Valve's marketplaces with new modes, visuals, music, and an extra stage for the Steam release.

I played through the original freeware version of the game a few years ago but decided to purchase it again when it was ported to WiiWare. The additions in the paid package aren't necessary to enjoy the game, and I actually prefer the pixelated look and the chiptune soundtrack from the original release (which you can choose in the paid versions of the game as well). With a 6-10 hour playtime and several secrets that you definitely won't find without consulting a guide, the free version of Cave Story is more than enough on its own.

That said, Cave Story+ is well worth the $10 it costs, and if you're just now getting around to playing this gem, you might as well spend the money for the extra features and convenience of owning the game on Steam (or WiiWare and DSiWare, the game feels like it was made for a Nintendo controller). Cave Story is also available on the Nintendo 3DS as Cave Story 3D, a baffling $40 remake of a free game that doesn't even have all the content of the $10 definitive version. But oh man it's in 3D!!!

It's still hard to believe that Cave Story was a one man effort, as every aspect of the game succeeds. The presentation is old-school excellent, the action is intense, and the story is more engrossing than you'd expect from talking rabbit characters. I don't know how much of the game's revenue is making its way back to Pixel, but he deserves every penny of it.