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.