Have You Played… Cadaver?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The Bitmap Brothers were one of my favourite studios back in the day, the day in question being the late eighties and early nineties. Along with Sensible Software, they made the games that captured my imagination, beautiful to look at and just that little bit unusual. Cadaver was probably the strangest of the Bitmap games that I owned; it’s a fantasy adventure, played from an isometric viewpoint, and it looked like I imagined tabletop Dungeons and Dragons games might look. I adored it.

I love looking back at games I played when I was too young to really understand the rules. By that, I don’t mean the rules of the actual game – hitpoints and stat sheets and the rest – but the rules of a genre, and the limits of what can fit into a computer’s brain.

Cadaver, I can see now, is essentially a puzzle game. Each room has certain objects and enemies, and the goal of the game is to pick a way through the levels by killing or outsmarting the enemies and combining the objects correctly. To my young mind, its beautiful environments were so detailed that they could only be part of a larger world. I imagined that once I’d dealt with the initial plotline, I’d be able to explore the entire world, and to exist in it doing whatever I pleased.

That was the promise of games, as compared to films or cartoons. I knew that I couldn’t step into the background of the latest episode of He-Man and explore the parts that the writers weren’t focused on right now, but with something like Cadaver, that possibility was very real. Of course, the world of the game was very limited, but part of the trick of the design was to gesture toward larger spaces beyond, and the Bitmap Brothers did that wonderfully.


  1. Kefren says:

    I played the demo of this on my Amiga quite a lot. It reminded me a bit of Knight Lore, one of the first computer games that amazed me.

  2. DiePingu says:

    Cadaver was indeed awesome, probably my favourite bitmap brothers game after speedball 2.

    Hated the bloody slime monsters in it though

  3. Tycow says:

    Never played this, nor did I know it was a Bitmap Brothers game, however when I saw that screenshot I thought “that looks like the Chaos Engine” style of art.

    Ahh, nostalgia. :)

  4. Snowskeeper says:

    Every time I see your name a surge of incoherent rage slaps me upside the head, before I realize the guy I’m thinking of has been dead for centuries.

    • Tuidjy says:

      You may want to revise that opinion. Just because a bunch of morons take one line out of context, and run away with it doesn’t mean that Adam Smith wasn’t a very perceptive economist of the Enlightenment. I strongly recommend reading An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, if only so that you can shut down the aforementioned morons.

      By the way, I’m not some Sophomore economics student with twinkling stars in his eyes. I grew up in People’s Republic, and I am not viewing that particular flavor of economics through rose tinted glasses.

      • TheOx129 says:

        Eh, I’d say your average person can likely skip Smith, unless they’re interested in the history of economics and economic thought. It’s like when people recommend Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a good source for Roman history: it’s not that it’s bad, per se, so much as woefully out of date compared to current scholarship.

        If you’re going to read Smith as a layman, I’d recommend The Theory of Moral Sentiments over The Wealth of Nations, especially given that you get a far better idea of the various philosophical and psychological underpinnings of his thought.

        All that said, I do agree with you regarding the notion that folks across the political spectrum have a rather distorted view of Smith: he supported at least a limited redistribution of wealth as a counter to wealth inequality (something he saw as detrimental to social harmony and individual liberty), subscribed to the labor theory of value, and his claim to fame – the “invisible hand” – appears just three times across the entirety of his corpus.

        • Snowskeeper says:

          It’s less the man’s work as a whole and more some of his most famous, most idiotic ideas. Sorry; sort of regretted making that post after I did so, but by the time that came up it was too late to delete it.

  5. wodin says:

    The heady days when I had no idea about computers limitations back in the eighties. Games and game worlds offered limitless possibilities to my young mind as my imagination would fly (remember when imagination was important playing computer games unlike now where it’s all visually on a plate). AI. memory and cpu limitations pah no idea about any of that and oh gaming was so much the better for it..never get all that back. Plus games get picked apart and broke down into the minutest detail these days so everything is laid bare and limitations become glaringly obvious..oh hum.

  6. thresheld says:

    So I stumbled upon a site that reposted an excerpt from this article. At the end was a link leading to an advertisement site and then to this page. Just wondering if you people knew about it:
    link to gamebreakingnews.net

  7. Eleriel says:

    Wow, this is weird. I thought about Cadaver like a few hours ago when I played Lumo for the first time (same perspective, same style of different rooms.)

    I played Cadaver back when I wasn’t really understanding games properly yet. Like I’d play a game for ten minutes until I got stuck or bored, then switch to another game and play that for ten minutes.

    I don’t think I actually *finished* a game till I played X-Wing.

    but I was always intrigued by Cadaver. it seemed to have a depth that most other amiga-games at the time lacked.
    I mean it *seemed* like it did, but it probably didn’t. kind of scared of going back and playing it now, actually.

  8. GameOverMan says:

    Another Amiga title similar to the old Filmation games that were popular on the 8-bit computers was Treasure Trap.

  9. Array says:

    I was reminded of this game when I played Bare Mettle’s ‘Exanima’ which is a little unsurprising given the Old School attitude of the developers. Obviously the mechanics are completely different (besides pulling levers to solve puzzles). I think I only ever had the demo that came free on a magazine? but loved it at the time.

  10. thekelvingreen says:

    Bitmap Brothers games still look great, even now.

  11. CurseYouAll says:

    Haven’t played this one buy omg Gods and Chaos Engine!

  12. PostieDoc says:

    So many great games released on the Amiga.

  13. Snids says:

    That is astoundingly lovely to look at.
    I’m the same some others here. Played the mysterious demo disk we got when we bought the Amiga. So many weird disks which held confusing things.

  14. King in Winter says:

    Ah Cadaver, what a great game it was. Can’t recall though if I ever managed to finish it.

  15. Premium User Badge

    zapatapon says:

    Story tangentially related to the last paragraph: I remember watching teenagers playing some top-down scrolling arcade schmup in the eighties as a kid (yes I’m old). In the game the ship was in some sort of cave and had to slaughter a bunch of bugs crawling out of burrows left and right. I was thinking that were I to play the game, I would fly the ship right into the burrows on the sides to explore what could possibly lay left or right of the main screen. I was never able to test this since my mom would not let me play such a stupid thing.

  16. MikoSquiz says:

    I was just thinking about Bitmap Bros the other night, playing Hollow Knight. The visual design in that really makes me think of the way BB used tightly circumscribed palettes and smooth-textured shading.

  17. KaradocCadaver says:

    This game is a gem, not the easiest of them but finished it.
    And you had a sense of achievement.Thats what bitmap brothers did made all different types of games, but only better.
    From Xenon, Magic Pockets to Speedball.Still own and wear my bitmap broters T-shirt with pride!

  18. Zorrito says:

    I love these reminiscence pieces about games I also played as kid. Of course Cadaver is a puzzle game! I see that now. At the time though, it was an adventure :)