Have You Played… Caveblazers?

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

I was going to vote for Caveblazers as one of the best games of 2017. Then I saw the game’s ending.

Caveblazers is a platformer-roguelike in a similar vein to Spelunky, in that you’re collecting treasure while jumping and descending deeper into procedural levels. It has a few major differences. One is a greater focus on combat, particularly ranged attacks: you have a bow that has infinite arrow ammo. The second is that you discover upgrades in each life that stack. You might find one that causes you to fire your arrows twice as fast, then one that causes you to fire two arrows at a time, then one that causes arrows to explode on impact; you use all three of these at the same time and you feel joyously powerful for the duration of that life.

I really dug Caveblazers and I really dug picking Caveblazers apart for all my frustrations with it. For example, the third major difference from Spelunky is that in Caveblazers there is a boss at the end of each world. These bosses are dealt out in a random order and are the reason I eventually stopped playing. There were some I found easy to defeat, some that I found impossible, and some that I was getting better at with each attempt, but my progress felt like it was being gated by random chance.

That means I’ve only ever seen its final boss in videos. I looked it up because when I mentioned in the RPS Slack room that I was thinking of voting for the game, someone said I should check the ending first. They were right. Spoilers: Caveblazers’ final boss is a beefy guy called the Overlord who keeps women in cages, who asks if their fathers sent you, refers to the women as “specimens” and “vessels”, and says they’re going to bear him children. He thrusts his hips, just to make sure you know he’s talking about raping them. Once you defeat him, the women live on your menu screen, dancing in their underwear.

It’s brief and it happens at a point in the game that most players will never see, but that doesn’t matter to me. He’s clearly a villain, but that doesn’t matter either. Up until that point – as far as I’ve seen – Caveblazers is concerned solely with fun powerups and wacky orcs. Depicting such horrible subject matter with that same silly tone is dumb, alienating, and not something I’d ever want to celebrate in a game of the year list. And now that I know it’s there, I know for sure I never want to spend anymore time working to make progress towards it.


Top comments

  1. something says:

    If this sort of thing doesn't bother you, that's fine. More power to you. This does not make you a bad person. But if you can't see how this might leave a bad taste in the mouth for a lot of people then you're just not trying.

    I mean, it's deliberately trying to be crass and old-fashioned. To dismiss people's reactions to that is also to dismiss the author's intent. To say it's just a game, just pixels, is to dismiss, not only the entire thing, but all video games ever. Makes you wonder why anyone bothers hiring artists at all.
  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Wow, I’d never heard the ending thing before. There were always oblique references to some bad ending in the articles about it on this site, but never a description.

    Yeah, that’s pretty fucked.

  2. Danda says:

    I was enjoying this game a lot, but that’s messed up.

  3. littlestcaesar says:

    I’m more concerned about how the game stopped being fun as you advanced the levels but no, you just had to be offended by the ending. I don’t like how gaming sites try to take the high road when people are here to read about games, not about someones insecurities.

    Guess I’ll boot up any fighting game and watch some boobs bouncing.

    • Ghostbird says:

      You know this article is just words, right? You should be here to read words, not get offended by what they say.

      • Edgewise says:

        For what it’s worth, the game is “just images and sounds,” so you could say something similar about the article itself.

        • Ghostbird says:

          Tfw your attempt at irony failed so hard you can’t tell if the replies are taking you seriously or not.

      • Sandepande says:

        Wake up and smell the 2018.

  4. Bladderfish says:

    Is anyone actually offended by 2d sprites spitting out cliched, one-dimensional lines in a platformer?

    I mean, it just seems silly to me, and something no one with half a brain would take seriously, because the idea is obviously: Here’s a bad guy and we’ve made him as awful as possible just to make him into the suitable villain of the piece.

    I’m trying very hard to imagine someone playing this, getting to that point and then turning the game off in disgust. I can’t do it, perhaps because I can differentiate between fantasy and reality.

    In a related note, I read the Brent Weeks Way of Shadows series recently, and the villain in that was so abhorrent and disgusting (mass rape, mass murder, torture, etc, etc), that it just became silly. Much the same thing as the above.

    • Dewal says:

      It’s not being offended, it’s finding it distateful. And it’s not against the “game”, it’s about the creators of the game that had the idea to put this thing here. It’s fine to not want your games to joke about rape and saying it out loud.

      And the difference with villains joking about death and killing, I’d say, is that rape victims might be hurt by this kind of things while dead people won’t really care. You could say it is more smart and polite to avoid hurting people and avoid sensitive subjects when it’s not needed.

      Plus, this game looks like it could be targeted to kids and you don’t really want them to be exposed to this kind of humour.

      • RuySan says:

        “And the difference with villains joking about death and killing, I’d say, is that rape victims might be hurt by this kind of things while dead people won’t really care”

        What about the family members of murdered people?

        I also feel the double-standards of Rape/Murder in gaming criticism pretty stupid, but i agree that the ending is a bit distasteful. But i also find GTA distasteful and wrong. Still, I find the author is overreacting, and i would like to know his opinion on the ending of the arcade classic Double Dragon, which made everyone go crazy in the 80s, although i suppose he wasn’t there.

        • GeoX says:

          So if murder and rape in games is the same thing, morally, would you want to play a game the sole purpose of it is to rape as many women as possible? Would you see that as exactly the same as a murder simulator? Would you not understand why pretty much everyone was recoiling in horror from you?

          • RuySan says:

            That is a strawman argument. The game depicted here isn’t about raping as many woman as possible, so your reasoning makes no sense. Stop being silly.

          • GeoX says:

            My comment–fairly obviously, I would’ve thought–isn’t about Caveblazers specifically. You were complaining about a “double standard.” If you think such a double standard is a bad thing, then are you willing to take it to its logical limit? If not, you should maybe stop complaining.

            (Okay, I say “you,” but I’ll concede that there’s evidence that you personally wouldn’t be okay with such a thing, but in that case, you should even MORE stop with this “double standards” business, as it’s just a silly, knee-jerk reaction)

          • RuySan says:

            If i would take that argument to the logical limit, we would be comparing a game where you play as a serial rapist versus a game where you play as a serial killer. Both equally objectionable and deplorable, and as far as i know, no game of this kind exist (although i would guess it’s possible a serial rapist game exists in japan), even though i guess you could roleplay as a serial killer in some sandbox games like Skyrim or GTA (although that’s not the main point of the games).

            I hope i made myself clear. I’m not arguing for the existence of rape in games, i’m arguing against senseless violence in games.

          • GeoX says:

            I suppose it depends what you mean by “serial killer,” but there are plenty of games where you’re murdering the shit out of countless people for dubious reasons. I don’t want to play a game like that, but I’d sure as hell rather play it than the serial rapist sim.

    • duns4t says:

      Your description highlights part of the problem inherent in the game’s ending: one-dimensional content and use of cliches. There’s really no reason to have put it in other than as a poorly-conceived joke which comes at the expense of survivors.

  5. riedlj says:

    Rape should have no place in gaming culture. The insecurities you refer to are called “morals” by most people. Kudos to the author for revealing the ending, i know i won’t be playing it anymore. As a father of two young girls, i cant imagine playing such a game with them, and reaching the end.

    • hungrycookpot says:

      Mass-murder committed by the player character is encouraged, but allusions to rape by someone who is portrayed as decidedly evil? No, that’s too far.

      • riedlj says:

        Context is important. Lets say you played to the end of Super Mario Brothers and Bowser is raping Princess Peach. This game is cute and funny and light, and the end is inappropriate at best. Its not a dark and dangerous game. Game developers need to think about what their players want to see and hear, not just what is funny to them. Gaming culture has proven itself to be hostile towards women, and this is further proof.

        • hungrycookpot says:

          Your definition of “proof” and mine are very different I think. Is gaming culture also hostile to human life? Because being killed is something that humans tend to find disagreeable, but nobody says that developers are encouraging or normalizing murder because it’s portrayed (and often requires the player to joyfully commit it, but don’t worry, usually we’re just killing men) in roughly 95% of all video games. Rape is a thing that happens, like murder. It hurts people, and no sensible person wants it to happen IRL. Acknowledging rape and murder exist != celebrating either != raping or murdering anyone.

          • GeoX says:

            So you’d be cool with a game that consists of nothing but “joyfully committing” rape? If you would, okay, you’re consistent in your argument, and also a huge creep. Otherwise…stop trying to make arguments you don’t actually believe.

          • skeletortoise says:

            Graham never suggests or implies that depictions of rape are endorsements of it. Like most of the negative reactors, you’re making unjustified assumptions, like Graham is too dumb to realize that the final boss is a bad guy. As has been said and you’ve already ignored, every game has you perform actions in a certain context. The context of this game is adventuring through caves fighting and, yes, killing (I believe) non-human enemies that will attack and try to kill you on sight. People can take issue with that if they like, I’m sure some people do only play pacifistic games. Anyway, as Graham explained, what bothered him is that this sex slave ring was thrown at him out of nowhere, at the very end of an arcadey, almost story-free game about platforming through dungeons collecting treasure, as if it were a joke. That’s not just tasteless, it’s jarring, confusing, pointless, and objectively* bad writing.

            *By which I mean, ‘as close to objectively bad as is possible’. Forgive me subjectivity gods.

  6. tigerfort says:

    [removes from wishlist]

  7. MonkeyJug says:

    What a crock of shit. Caveblazers is a great game and the ending **spoiler alert** “isn’t real” – it’s just a video game.

    The world has gone PC crazy. We’re all doomed.

    Silence of the Lambs won a few Oscars. Call of Duty has people being shot through the head with what appears to be actual red blood appearing in the wound.



    • MauvePeopleEater says:

      There is as much un-“PC” (if we accept this nonsense category created by lazy comedians and shock jocks) media being produced as there ever was, and as much criticism of it. The difference is that a) anything that happens to your generation feels massively significant; b) a few people have made it their mission in life to silence or at least shame any attempt at commenting on the tastefulness – or lack thereof – of media. Don’t be histrionic.

    • fegbarr says:

      No, it’s not real life. Who said it was?

      Like any piece of art, a video game invokes responses. Like any piece of art, a video game is welcome to approach any topic it likes with any level of sensitivity it likes, and we the audience are welcome to react to it however we like. Sometimes topic X is appropriately handled in a work, sometimes it is used to for cheap laughs in a way that alienates and upsets people.

      You liked the game and didn’t mind the end? Good for you, glad you had fun. Why does it bother you that other people didn’t?

    • GeoX says:

      What a crock of shit. Caveblazers is a great game and the ending **spoiler alert** “isn’t real” – it’s just a video game.

      So nothing in games means anything, ever? That would be an awfully nihilistic thing to say, except I know that you don’t actually believe it; you’re just using it as a convenient excuse because someone said something mean about a game you like.

      • MonkeyJug says:

        I couldn’t care less about Caveblazers. It’s not a game I have any kind of affinity with. I have thousands of ‘great’ games in my Steam account.

        I played it for a week last Summer when I was on holiday and got to the second boss. I never knew about this ‘controversial’ last boss until I read this article.

        I only commented because of how pathetic the article was, for the author to have a grudge against a game he liked because some pixels on his screen depicted a nasty man gyrating his hips with some scantily-clad women behind him.

        I bet he was delighted when the walk-on girls got dumped from the darts and F1.

        The world is truly fucked.

        • GeoX says:

          The fact remains, you wrote “Caveblazers is a great game and the ending **spoiler alert** “isn’t real” – it’s just a video game.” These are your words, dude. You said that you liked the game and that Graham Smith shouldn’t care about it because games don’t mean anything. If you don’t believe it, you shouldn’t have said it. I see now you’ve revised your argument; now it’s just that it’s “pathetic” for people to care about things you don’t approve of. I don’t actually think that’s an improvement, but I suppose at least it’s less disingenuous.

    • skeletortoise says:

      Of all the dumb reactions to Graham’s reaction you’ve managed to have the dumbest, congrats. Have you never watched a movie, read a book, or played a game that’s ever left a bad taste in your mouth for any reason? Never met anyone who has? Perhaps, as this comment and your others would imply, no piece of art or entertainment has ever made you feel anything, because it’s “not real”. How could it? I mean, one wonders how you enjoyed everything but the ending of Caveblazers so much, since mere pixels were incapable of making you feel anything at all. As for me, I have read stories and seen TV/films which referenced rapes that had happened (though they did not explicitly depict it) and I did in fact have a reaction! I was disturbed and unsettled. In some cases, it felt tasteless and unearned. That didn’t necessarily completely turn me off the work, but it was, astonishingly, a reaction. And to mere ink and pixels! Anyway, it’s cool that you quit your initial completely nonsensical thoughts to instead personally attack the author for his apparent weakness to not think a game is a masterpiece just because of a little thing like casually throwing rape and slavery insinuations, completely out of left field, at the end of a fun little adventure.

      P.S. I myself think political correctness does get a little out of hand in culture much of the time, but casually joking about rape has never been on the list of topics that people get upset about just because of PC.

    • Shinard says:

      You’re entitled to your opinion. I’d really rather you weren’t such a massive twat in delivering it, though.

  8. Turkey says:

    Didn’t stick with Cave Blazers long enough to get anywhere near the ending. It just felt so clunky compared to Dead Cells and Monolith.

  9. Edgewise says:

    It does sound like the ending is unpleasant and inappropriate, but everyone has to take everything so far and be in high dudgeon. I think it’s great to point out issues like this. I also think it’s very tiresome to make such a show of disgust and righteousness.

    • skeletortoise says:

      Not giving him a lot of options, are you? I don’t see him as being righteous or patting himself on the back at all. He described the ending, said he felt about it, and explained why. He didn’t declare the game as an abomination or look down on others for enjoying it. Is there no way to explain your feelings about things you find gross or wrong without being righteous?

  10. TychoCelchuuu says:

    I had fun with it for a while (although I was never super good at it). At around the time I started to get a little tired from the lack of variety in weapons I was finding, RPS posted the ending article, and that was the last straw. Fast forward a few months and now that I’ve got Dead Cells, I can’t imagine going back to Caveblazers.

  11. something says:

    If this sort of thing doesn’t bother you, that’s fine. More power to you. This does not make you a bad person. But if you can’t see how this might leave a bad taste in the mouth for a lot of people then you’re just not trying.

    I mean, it’s deliberately trying to be crass and old-fashioned. To dismiss people’s reactions to that is also to dismiss the author’s intent. To say it’s just a game, just pixels, is to dismiss, not only the entire thing, but all video games ever. Makes you wonder why anyone bothers hiring artists at all.

    • upupup says:

      You’re being contradictory. Saying that they’re not a bad person for not being bothered by this but then following up with how, effectively in doing so, they’re not sufficiently acknowledging the feelings of those hurt by it, does imply that you’re a bad person for not being bothered by it. This is the hypocrisy in this argument where you don’t want to say that people aren’t allowed to explore subjects in ways that make people uncomfortable, while still wanting to deny them doing so. That’s the flaw in this article as well where there is an argument being made that there is a moral flaw with the game itself, rather than it merely being badly made, same as how you’re making claims as to authorial intent when those haven’t been proven anywhere (nor would they matter if they were) and how there is a tendency in the commenter to try and equate not wanting to forbid use of rape as a subject to morally condoning the act of rape itself. It’s fishing for a moral victory without justifying those assumptions.

      A game, like any art, should be allowed to be creepy, disturbing, disgusting and transgressive, even when it is done in poor taste, because poor taste and good taste are not universal constants and all too easily abused to argue for silencing artists, which is something that should never be done lightly. Furthermore, the skillful handling of a subject isn’t attained out of thin air but through many terrible executions of those ideas and for every master there will be dozens of hacks. Trying to say that those subjects should therefore never be tackled only means that only those looking to shock will deal with it and not those with the competency and interest to eventually do it justice. You cannot tell ahead of time who those people are, so trying to filter which people can and can’t is impossible.

      If the subject is poorly handled then certainly you can argue against the execution on those terms, that is the job of a reviewer after all, and that is also how the hacks that hide behind a facade of artistry in order to indulge themselves get pointed out. However, this is not due to the subject itself somehow being verboten, but because the people that used it were utterly incompetent and without a shred of artistry to them. This is why I cannot agree with simplistic articles such as this one, because the need to denounce games in this manner as being morally wrong is a cop-out to not look deeper at what you perceive to be its flaws; it is a call to sentimentality, when it is the responsibility of the reviewer not only to convince their audience but to educate them through the clarity and strength of their argument, especially when it comes to subjects that you find morally abhorrent.

  12. stringerdell says:

    Great gameplay but that is just such an incredibly stupid, thoughtless thing to put in there at the end. kind of glad i never quite got good enough to beat the final boss now

  13. Landiss says:

    I honestly don’t see what exactly is such a problem here. We can have villains from the real world who did fucked up things, like Hitler, we can even have player character killing, maiming, murdering hundreds or more people, but this thing is what you get offended by? Were you equally offended by Game of Thrones and its depiction of Craster and his “wifes”?

    And I’m saying that as someone who is actually quite sensitive to these things. For example, I really hated how women in Witcher 3 were dressed, it was especially distasteful with the main character daughter. On the other hand, the way how the main story portrait some of the female characters was quite the opposite (meaning – they were not just props, they were often stronger and more important to the story than men) and it made me like the game overall so much.

    But this? This just looks silly.

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      Caveblazers is not Game of Thrones or a World War II game. It’s about silly orcs making greebly noises and dying in silly ways. It does not deal with serious subject matter from its first moments, or even its second, third or fourth moment, as GoT does or something about WW2 obviously would. As someone else said, Caveblazers is closer to a Mario game. More violent than Mario, but not rape-and-slavery violent until the ending.

      Context matters.

      (And yeah, lots of people rightly complained about Game of Thrones as well when it went too far with some of that stuff, and they noticeably reduced it in the most recent season.)

      • MonkeyJug says:

        Everytime Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach, do you think he wants to make her a cup of tea once he gets her back to his lair???

        Sorry to burst your pure-in-thought bubble, but I reckon he probably wants to ruin that bitch. He’s so large and her, so… Petite.

        • April March says:

          I must say I can’t help but be impressed by your attempt to turn this argument around by implying that it is we who are the weird ones for not imagining that Bowser repeatedly rapes Peach.

      • Landiss says:

        Well, I admit I have not played the game and perhaps I would feel about this differently if I had. Due to this I’m not going to argue further, even though I still don’t agree with you.

  14. Shirsh says:

    Hmmm, so it’s ok to have a nazi as a game enemy to hate and to fight, but not ok to have an Immortan Joe as a game enemy to hate and to fight?

    It’d be nice to have better explanation, why is that. I watched this video and there’s no jokes or taking topic lightly, boss is indeed evil and deserves to be killed. Why is it more inapropriate than hating and killing any other types of evil bosses?

    Also about “Up until that point – as far as I’ve seen – Caveblazers is concerned solely with fun powerups and wacky orcs”. I dunno, it was a game of blood and guts on the walls around, for me, so as I’m not quite understanding your perception of ending I also can’t understand how you can percept that bloodshed as a wacky and light game. Dark comedy at max.

    • MonkeyJug says:

      Also about “Up until that point – as far as I’ve seen – Caveblazers is concerned solely with fun powerups and wacky orcs”. I dunno, it was a game of blood and guts on the walls around, for me, so as I’m not quite understanding your perception of ending I also can’t understand how you can percept that bloodshed as a wacky and light game. Dark comedy at max.

      Exactly my thoughts. I remember the very first time I played this game, having seen all the blood and gore, I joked with my girlfriend that I couldn’t wait to play this with our 8 year old son.

      She said, “Definitely no chance of that happening!”

      Mario Party is ‘Wacky’ and ‘fun’. Caveblazers is violent.

  15. Tenax says:

    I agree that the developers maybe went too far with the “save the princess” trope and made the end-game villain a bit too grimdark, but I think that can be forgiven. The core gameplay experience is still fun and exciting with the immense amount of randomization (in-as-much as it was super frustrating at times), and I was hooked for a while on doing “just one more run!” What did bother more over time were the dancing girls who flood the starting area after beating the boss – something I expected from the likes of Duke Nukem, maybe, but not in this game. It also served as a constant reminder that I had in fact beaten the game…so why continue to punish myself with frustrating runs that end prematurely because of screwy RNG?

  16. hungrym says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for letting me know about this. It’s exactly the sort of played-out edginess that would retroactively sour my experience.

  17. Viral Frog says:

    I can see where you’re coming from on this, Graham. I agree that it seems pretty out of place given the tone of the rest of the game. I don’t find it particularly clever or entertaining by any means. At the same time, it’s not something that’ll put me off of playing. The core gameplay is very satisfying, IMO. Even if the bosses are a bit crap, everything in between more than makes up for it.

  18. TheBetterStory says:

    Thanks for the heads up! I had this on my wishlist, I think I’ll remove it. Not interested in the least in being rewarded sex slaves as a prize. Honestly, couldn’t they just have had a hoard of treasure at the end or something?

  19. Gustavus says:

    I had a blast playing this game. I finally got good enough at it that I could get to the last boss pretty reliably, and I was looking forward to completing a full relic run.

    Then I beat the game and saw the ending.

    Not only is the ending terrible, but if you exit and enter the base area a few times, the rescued girls go through the process of brutally murdering the cranky old man and covering themselves in his blood.

    I just couldn’t keep playing after that. It didn’t fit the tone of the game at all, and it soured my memory of Cave Blazers to the point that I’ll never play it again.

  20. quasiotter says:

    I think it’s great that you’re pointing stuff like this out! I’m glad you talked about what you liked about it, as well as what turned you off. Nice and balanced.

    It looked cool from the screenshot, but the ending, the violence, and using a big guy as a villain really sour it for me.

  21. Cenon says:

    Whoa! Popped here just to read how one my 2017 favourite games might be praised here. And then figured that half of the article is wasted on the forgettable ending.

    The odd thing is how things have changed. Suddenly games need to address certain topics so carefully, that neglecting them hurts the reviews, even if the game is almost zero about anykind of story. Just like in Caveblazers, where the goal is just a mcguffin which has probably been figured out when the core game design itself has been finish.

    I remember when I got to the ending and discovered the caged bikini sprites, I felt the stuff was pretty courageous, since you don’t see this kind of stuff anymore. But that wasn’t bothering me much since that was it. And the women actually made a grand favour later on by eating the nuisance of a grandpa in the starting screen.

    Sure, if CB had been a walking simulator with heavy emphasis on story, the ending would have been absurd to almost a certain degree of art. But in a game like this the topic is absolutely blown out of its proportions.

    But I understand, its a hot topic right now since metoo, gamergate and such, and they really seem to keep people extra alert of any scenery that even hints towards female degrading. But I think this is still overreacting that mainly backfires.