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Caveman Games: The Neanderthal Olympics and Lessons on How to Treat A Woman
Scott - 2/22/01

Emulators and ROMs are a huge part of the X-E experience. They allow us to revisit a lot of the classic videogames that when we were younger, had us hooked like a crack addict looking for that one last hit. Hell, I can recall playing through the original Super Mario Brothers three times straight without stopping for break. The thing with the first Mario game was that the ending was the exact same whether you were playing through it for the first time, or the thirtieth. But with each successive conquering of the game, Nintendo was smart enough to make it progressively more difficult each time you played through it. Enemies became tougher, faster, and smarter, well, alright maybe not smarter or faster, but just changing one or two things around each time through made it seem like a whole new experience for me. I wasn't a very picky kid. My main gripe with the original Mario Brothers was that there was no damn password or save game option, essentially forcing be to spend hours upon hours on my Nintendo, trying to actually play the game through until it stopped taking me back to the very beginning. Yeah, I know I was a dumb kid, but I was fucking convinced that there was some mysterious ending that, provided you saved the damn Princess enough times, had something like you taking the Princess out to a bar, getting her plastered, and having some wild animal sex so Mario can brag to his friends about it the next day. But alas nothing like that never happened.

However, this article isn't about Super Mario Brothers, a game that shall forever remain a landmark in gaming history. This article is about another game that provided me with some of life's most important life lessons: how to treat a women and how to cheat to win. Ladies and Gentlemen, I submit for the approval of the Midnight Society, Caveman Games.

Caveman Games made me realize that cheaters not only can prosper, they can rather brutally kick your ass in the process too. For those of you unfamiliar with this game, the best explanation I can come up with is a that it's a comedic Stone Age version of modern Olympic events. Six different cavemen are all vying for the coveted title of world's most coordinated neanderthal. But there's a catch: just being good in an event doesn't necessarily guarantee victory. The computer cheats to win, and you can cheat too, making this game not only much more like the real life Olympics but also forcing you to master a myriad of skills in order to beat the competition and bring home the championship trophy.

Before starting the actual Caveman Games themselves, you get to choose one of six different Cavemen to be your competitor. Each one possesses different strengths and weaknesses, making your decision that much more difficult. For me, the deciding factor was the individual profiles for each neanderthal. Whoever wrote the descriptions for this game must've been a genius, because this is normally the part of the article where me or Matt would take a few paragraphs to make fun of each individual character with a few witty remarks. Thankfully, the guy (or girl...it's possible) who wrote these character descriptions already did this to perfection for me. I'm a big fan of anyone who can make my job that much easier. I'll pretty much let the individual profiles speak for themselves here.



Thag "Mr. Charisma" Thag is my primary choice of athlete not only because he has a way with the ladies, but because I'm powerless to resist choosing anyone other than the guy nicknamed "Mr. Charisma". I grew up watching pro wrestling so if there's one thing I've learned from it, it's that the guy with the better name always wins (Editors Note: This rule does not apply to wrestling legend Bob Backlund, mostly because of the sheer dominance and effectiveness of his famous "Crossface Chickenwing" submission move). If this were professional wrestling, it'd be like I was the raw newcomer who is still using his real name and I'm taking on THE "Mr. Charisma", wrestling extrordinaire and established superstar. Quite frankly, had I chosen anyone other than him, I was sure I'd get my ass kicked.

Little did I know when I first started playing the game, I'd be getting my ass handed to me regardless of which person I chose.

So by now I've chosen my gladiator, and it's time for the actual competition get underway. This is an all out war! To the victor goes the spoils! Second place is the first loser! I don't plan on taking any prisoners either! If there are any other motivational catch phrases I missed, I apologize. Now that I've got the correct mind set, it's time for me to take my opponents to fucking caveman school.

EVENT ONE - STARTING A FIRE

Hmmm...starting a fire with sticks...a test of knowledge, skill, and hand-eye coordination. Surely millions of years of evolutionary development would give me some type of advantage when controlling my guy. How difficult could it be to start a fire? Besides, this was a Nintendo game, so there weren't really any excessively complicated control schemes back in those days. Basically, this event is a button mashing contest. As far as I was concerned, I had this one in the bag.

GET READY! GET SET! GO!

Mr. Charisma jumps out to a commanding lead over Vincent as my ability to pound on my controller at an alarming rate allows me to have the fire prepped and ready to go in a mere matter of seconds. If there was a taunt button, I could get up, dance a fancy jig around my opponent and his "fire", and still have enough time to get back and finish building mine. As you can see from the image, I only manage to take the time to make faces and stick my tongue out at him, which is still a very worthy taunt if you take into account the fact that my guy is a caveman. Then IT happens...

...my opponent fucking clocks me one and knocks me fucking silly! (The above image is a dramatic reenactment, because I never actually know when the computer's going to punch me).

What the fuck is this? A Nintendo game where your opponents cheat? I know bad guys have cheated in old NES games before this one, but that was always because they were bad guys. The Caveman Games are a time honored tradition, but apparently my opponent feels it is necessary to inflict physical damage to emerge victorious. I was under the impression that the combat parts of the competition were to come later on in American Gladiator-style joust/clubbing matches. I guess that's what I get for assuming my superior intellect (relative to the cavemen of course) can be applied to most of the situations in this game, allowing me to easily emerge victorious whenever I needed to come out on top.

So Vincent diligently builds his fire while I am forced to sit there seeing stars, and he's getting dangerously close to defeating me. I snap out of it and begin a comeback so dramatic you'd think Goldie Hawn had given me a Wildcats style pep-talk while I was in a daze. It's gonna be a close one as both our fires are almost finished when...

BONK!

He fucking knocks me out again at almost precisely the same time that his fire ignites, solidifying his place as the victor in this event. Like I said, I'm not stupid, so when he first knocked the shit out of me, I knew there was some way I had to be able to do the same thing to him. Well, I figured out how to "punch", but apparently Thag prefers to swing at fucking air instead of striking a blow to my opponent. I swear to God...my guy couldn't hit the broad side of Shirley Hemphill.

I'm not about to regret choosing Mr. Charisma as my caveman, but if there's one thing I can't stand, it's losing...especially losing unfairly. Surely vengeance would be exacted in the next event.

EVENT TWO - THE DINOSAUR POLE VAULT

This second part of the competition is where I am first introduced to another one of the game's central concepts: if you lose, you'll most likely die in the process. Not a very forgiving game eh?

The dinosaur pole vault is just like your standard Olympic pole vaulting competition, only with a few minor differences. First off, you're not vaulting a bar. You're vaulting a hungry dinosaur who eats you alive if you fail to safely clear the top of his head. Second, the event is held on a cliff, so should you fail to even make it up to the Dinosaur's mouth, your pole will pivot in the wrong direction and you'll fall off the cliff to your bloody death. It always amazed me how much violence and death was allowed in old videogames just because it looked like a cartoon as opposed to anything realistic. Of course, now that the graphics in a lot more games are a lot more realistic, everyone seems to be on a quest to crack down on and censor the game industry. If people would wake up and realize that parents are responsible for deciding what their children watch and play, games could lose a lot of the undue negative press they've been receiving lately. Sorry, I went off on a mini-rant there.

So despite the fact that there is about a 97% chance of me dying in this event, there's no way I'm not at least going to try and win this competition. Vincent, the bastard cheater from the Fire Starting contest, must be taught a lesson and learn the error of his ways. After a successful first jump (pictured above), I'm feeling rather confident too. It's time to up the ante and win this whole damn event.

Shit.

EVENT THREE - THE FOOT RACE

This event has me trying to outrun my opponent, while a saber toothed tiger is chasing us down and trying to eat us. I'm gonna be perfectly honest here: I suck at this event. I restarted it about fifty fucking times, and I never even got the halfway point of the race. The fruits of my labor are pictured above, and once again, not only is Thag held scoreless, but he now has been eaten alive in two out of three events. At least the computer didn't cheat to beat me this time.

But after I got the hang of this and figured out how to keep up with the other runner, my opponent picked me up and threw me back towards the pursuing tiger, where I was subsequently devoured.

Fucking cheaters.

EVENT FOUR - DINOSAUR RACING

This was my least favorite event in the whole competition, which is saying a lot considering I've been knocked unconscious and brutally devoured by wild beasts in the previous three events. Despite the NES gamepad having only two buttons and a d-pad, I never could quite figure out the controls for this event. Thag would just sit on the back of his dinosaur and beat it over the head with is club in a futile attempt to get it to fucking run. Obviously, nothing worked, and this game must have something against me. Or maybe, I just suck at this, but my best two events are still to come.

EVENT FIVE - CAVEMAN GLADIATORS

Ah, this is more like it...mano a mano...a fight to the death...I never knew Nintendo allowed such brutal savagery in their games. I mean they made Pokemon, and there's nothing savage about that other than the fact that it's glorified cock fighting. Wait a minute...now that I think about it, that's a pretty bad example.

Anyway, this event is just like the joust in American Gladiator, except we don't use giant foam q-tips to beat each other down. We fight with real weapons. Personally, I think American Gladiators would have been a lot more entertaining if they had actually utilized the violence in their events to a much higher degree. What's the point of trying to protect the competitors anyways? They weren't the reason people watched the show. They watched to see Diamond, Gemini, and Nitro kick some ass and break some legs. I mean, in the Assault event, they shoot tennis balls at the competitors. Tennis balls don't hurt. These guys never had anything to fear. I would've proposed filling the gun with something at least as hard as a baseball, thus making these people stop and think before trying to hit that damn target above the Gladiator's gun.

Holy shit, where was I? Oh yeah, Caveman Games and the Clubbing event...

The central objective of this event is to beat the other guy senseless in two out of three rounds, or if you want to go for the quick victory, you can knock him out of the fighting area and kill him.

In the first round, Thag took a commanding lead, but once again Vincent cheats. Apparently, you can point at nothing during the middle of a battle and go "Hey look over there!", and my guy fucking falls for it every time. I'll be beating Vincent over the head one second, and then one moment later, he tells me there's something behind me. Since I know there's nothing behind me, you'd think I'd be clever enough to not fall for this, but the game makes me turn around and look no matter what. Then, Vincent gets to take about ten free shots on my head, and there's nothing I can do about it. Here's a quick recap of the first round.

1. I smack Vincent with the bat.
2. Vincent smacks me.
3. I start kicking the shit out of Vincent, TMNT style.
4. Vincent points at nothing.
5. My guy automatically turns around, hoping to see whatever Vincent pointed at. My back is now turned from my opponent.
6. Vincent smashes my head in and ends the round.

For the next round, I'd figure I'd use some agility to dodge his swings and counter them with my own. Here's a recap of Round 2.

1. Vincent swings at me.
2. I back up to get out the way.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 a few more times.
4. I have no more room to back up now, so Vincent smacks me off the rock and kills me.

I'm not just losing here, I'm getting embarrassed.

EVENT SIX - THE MATE TOSS

Ah, my favorite event. Nothing says love like twirling your girlfriend around in circles for thirty seconds and then throwing her thirty yards through the air. Granted, this was the stone age, so there was only so much women were good for aside from cooking, cleaning, and decorating the cave at home.

Playing through this event made me thankful that this game was made for Nintendo, because the graphics are so simple and cartoony that it makes it much easier to stomach when you come to the realization that you're whipping your mate through the air as hard as you possibly can. I've played much more than my share of realistic, violent games (mmm....Counter-Strike), but if Caveman Games was on Dreamcast or Playstation 2, this game would probably be a little to weird for me. But it's on my beloved 8-bit Nintendo, so I was able to drag my woman to the event, whip her almost forty yards, and set a new Caveman Games record in the Mate Toss without feeling odd about what my guy was doing. In the picture below, she's giving me the thumbs up, since I set the record.

So what have I learned from this experience? Well, I now know you're never too good or too old to be humbled by your Nintendo Entertainment System. Thankfully, much like Cobra Commander, I don't find my defeats very discouraging. I just keep coming back for more.

- Scott
dupayosh@flashmail.com

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