The popularity of the Metroidvania style of game design has affected a large variety of video games since the release of Konami and Nintendo’s iconic franchises, but there’s no denying that indie games have seen the most dramatic impact. Developer lightUP has reigned in on this particular style with Prehistoric Dude, a platformer with the aforementioned Metroidvania DNA all over it. Fittingly set in the prehistoric era, you play as the titular caveman named Dude who really loves his ham. One day while enjoying a delectable roasted ham, a dinosaur swoops in and steals his meat. This is where your journey of reclaiming your stolen ham begins.
For the most part, Prehistoric Dude succeeds on the strengths of its charming, yet simple story about the aforementioned caveman on a lighthearted journey to rescue his piece of ham. The fact that the princess in peril has now been replaced by a piece of meat in peril ties nicely into the prehistoric setting, which isn’t overly complex and doesn’t need to be. This easy accessibility and simplicity carry over into the gameplay as well, which is as straightforward as Metroidvania platformers come. You’re thrown into different stages, each with their own unique setting, and have to collect keys to unlock gates that allow you to progress to the next level, rinse and repeat. Along the way, you also need to deal with a variety of enemies from snails, bees, snakes, and a variety of dinosaurs that take the form of boss fights. Combat is welcomed, but due to the limited usages of your stone axe (which are increasingly sparse in each level, requiring some farming), but it’s not always the best option and I found avoiding conflict made for a much more relaxing experience.
Across the handful of stages that Prehistoric Dude presents to the player, there’s a decent amount of variety in its design. Hills, caves, volcanoes and more all contribute to its prehistoric era and rather well. While each level might begin to feel a bit similar after a while, the game graciously keeps its overall playtime relatively short, with most players being able to complete their journey in less than two hours. This also includes searching the environments for hidden areas and secrets, of which there are plentiful but never enough that it feels tedious returning to other areas in order to find them; a gameplay mechanic that can often be the source of frustration in other Metroidvania titles. Prehistoric Dude’s short and sweet playtime is well worth the low price of admission, providing decent fun for a Sunday afternoon. While you can gather most of your achievements or trophies in one single playthrough, it’s short length certainly encourages a couple of more runs to find hidden paths and secrets you may have initially missed.
Prehistoric Dude’s breezy difficulty and short playtime have one or two setbacks, though. Because of its limited areas, some levels can start to feel too familiar, which lets repetition set in quickly. It isn’t helped by the fact that most of the game’s pivotal mechanics are introduced in the first ten minutes, making progression only tied to increasing your health and stamina bars. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem given its length, but it’s one area that developer lightUP can certainly improve on by introducing a bit more interesting gameplay features that would make a sequel a worthwhile evolution of what is a decent blueprint overall.
Controls, while mostly fair and responsive, can feel a tad bit clunky. Traversing the vertically designed grassy levels, climbing vines, or latching Dude onto the edge of platforms is intuitive, though never as smooth as I’d hoped it would be. This opens up a few frustrating moments when enemies can often block a ledge or platform, and due to the game not having any mid-air combat or attacks, it’s difficult to time jumps and leaps without hitting the enemy first, prompting their AI to move. Luckily, these moments are few and far between, but the few occasions that you do run into these small issues are noticeable enough to stand out and often sour your experience. The weighty controls take some getting used to, but Prehistoric Dude does present options for how you tackle (or rather, don’t engage) in enemy confrontations, which is always welcomed.
For as much as Prehistoric Dude stumbles before it can walk, it keeps the game design simple and inviting, though never aspires to be greater than the average platformer. Backtracking environments and finding key items are thankfully made easy with a handy map, highlighting paths travelled and points of interest in each area. It’s not easy to get lost, especially given how short most stages are, but you still get the feeling that the dated game design is too simple and maybe trails behind its more successful contemporary counterparts in the sub-genre. However, you can flip this to a positive as it provides a perfect gateway Metroidvania platformer for those unfamiliar with its intricate mechanics. Prehistoric Dude’s careful consideration for accessibility is both a strong entry point and crutch for those looking for a more challenging and complex adventure.
Prehistoric Dude provides a light Metroidvania adventure bolstered by a charming, simple story, accessible difficulty, and a short play time that opens the way for some replay value to acquire a remarkably easy Platinum Trophy. However, it can feel like its own worst enemy for those looking for a more involved and deeper experience. Some clunky controls and dated design choices made it feel like a product still stuck in the past, though never offensively so. For those just joining the wonderful world of Metroidvania indie games, Prehistoric Dude does provide a decent gateway into the sub-genre, but its simplicity is both a blessing and curse in disguise. Saving a piece of ham from a hungry dinosaur has never felt this adventurous.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Prehistoric Dude Review
Gameplay - 5/10
Graphics - 4/10
Sound - 5/10
Replay Value - 6/10
User Review( votes)
Prehistoric Dude is faithful to its setting: stuck in the past, which also makes for a decent gateway Metroidvania platformer.
- Charming, simple story.
- Decent level variety.
- Short play time, which leads to some replay value.
- Easy achievements/trophies.
- Clunky controls.
- Dated game design.
- Strange enemy AI.
- Repetitive at times.