Spelunking can be a dangerous past time, but spelunking in a cave where there's no immediate path in any direction? That's chaos! Cave Chaos takes a browser-based approach to the world of cavern exploration and it embraces the panicked excitement that its developer Nitrome is known for. Caves and caverns have long been a staple environment in the world of gaming, which makes it doubly refreshing to see such a fun new take on these surroundings.
Nitrome hits one out of the park again with this delightful little side-scroller about a fuzzy critter trying to safely navigate a deep dark cave. Like any good deep dark cave, this one has a secret – the platforms the critter walks on will be placed by bats and removed by bats at an alarming rate! As you wait for platforms to be built in front of you, older ones will be dismantled behind you. It's up to you to keep the critters feet on the ground before the disappearing scenery catches up with him.
As the game progresses you'll find yourself stumbling across different power-ups and enemies. Sometimes you'll get to double-jump, sometimes you'll end up moving super-slow with a bad guy stuck to your head – the variations run the gamut. Between all of these modifiers and some superb level design, Cave Chaos never finds a moment to feel dull or repetitive.
It can be a little too easy to get ahead of yourself and end up falling to your doom. They say pride cometh before a fall, and nowhere is that more true than Cave Chaos. While much of the game is focussed on staying ahead of the falling environment, getting too far ahead can mean you'll be taking leaps of faith to areas that have yet to be constructed. More often than not you'll land safely on a freshly placed block, but this creates a false sense of security that you'll always land on your feet. That makes it all the more heartbreaking when you jump and there's nothing there to catch you. The trick in Cave Chaos isn't in staying ahead of your tumbling past, but in staying behind your developing future.
In a lot of ways Cave Chaos felt like the anti-Canabalt. Both games share similarities, but while Canabalt was about moving fast and hoping for a good landing Cave Chaos is about thinking fast and moving at a safe pace. Fans of one game will no doubt love the other, but there's a somewhat cerebral element to Cave Chaos that you just don't find in its artsy contemporary.
Cave Chaos offers up something else you won't find in Canabalt – two player gameplay. While the game can certainly be traversed solo, it's always more fun to bring a friend along. All you'll need to do to turn Cave Chaos into a two player experience is slide a chair next to you and let a friend operated the WASD keys on your keyboard. Now you'll both race to complete the levels, trying to leave the other person in the dust, tumbling to their doom.
I'd hate to say that Cave Chaos is a metaphor for life, but it's hard to ignore the message delivered in its gameplay. You can't worry about what's behind you, and you should never count your chickens before they're hatched. It sounds like Nitrome has a self-help book somewhere in their future. We're probably reading too much into this.
Looking past our zen-like contemplations we can safely say that Cave Chaos is a fun little platformer with a neat twist that kept our interest held throughout. If you like a little anxiety mixed in with your action, making your way through Cave Chaos will definitely scratch that edge-of-your-seat itch.