It’s rare for iPhone games to have good storylines. Continuing this tradition is Cavorite ($1.99), confidently presenting a nonsensical whimsy about someone with a beard and a large brain. In the 16-bit puzzle-platformer, Einstein-clone Dr Cavor is stuck on the moon, trapped by evil aliens called Selenites – clever enough to trap the doctor inside 63 levels which span across 3 worlds, but stupid enough to each have just one ability. They either attack you, push boxes when they walk into them, or steal the spaceship parts that you’re searching for. You need the parts so that you can reconstruct your ship and flee from the moon, although collecting them isn’t a compulsory part of completing a level; to do that, you just need to reach the exit.
Your escape is aided by two things: Your puzzle-solving abilities, and anti-gravity spray called Cavorite. Spraying boxes (or enemies) with the substance makes them float upwards for a limited amount of time. If you double tap the spray button, you cling to the sprayed box, allowing you to access high-up platforms or switches. In most levels, you need to discover the best order in which to activate switches and leap across platforms so that you can reach the exit intact. The levels gradually get harder, with the last group of 21 levels, ‘Lunar Foundry’, a particular highlight. In the last levels, deadly lasers are beamed across stages, obstructing your path, and you need to find ways of evading them. Each puzzle in the game is cleverly designed and entertaining to play through. Some areas demand urgent platforming action, whilst others can be traversed at a more relaxed pace. The gameplay’s changing tempo keeps the app interesting, and prevents levels from seeming too similar. In the same way, the environments unique to each world – from cave-like to lava-filled to futuristic – feature little variety in terms of gameplay (apart from the aforementioned lasers), but their visual differences keep the app feeling fresh. 3 difficult boss fights also spice up the play, tasking you with defeating some weird otherworldly creatures. Boss fights seem to be a relative rarity in iPhone gaming, so these encounters are a welcome addition to Cavorite.
Controlling Dr Cavor is easy, with four buttons stretched across the bottom of the screen (left, right, spray, jump). Though not as precise as games like League of Evil, Cavorite generally reacts to your input commands accurately and reliably. The game audio is good too, with suitably bouncy and grunty sound effects and a subdued retro soundtrack. Graphically, if the game were edible I’d be keen to take a bite. It’s tasty.
Sadly, it’s not all good news. The game has a few minor quirks that can become irritating. It’s possible to skip levels – a great feature given that some are quite tough. The thing is, on every level, dying three times brings up a ‘skip level?’ dialogue. Most levels take at least three or more attempts to complete, so you’re likely to receive this notification virtually every time you load the app. The skip level option is also present in the pause menu, and that’s where it should have stayed. Another minor niggle is that upon pressing a button while the skip level dialogue is appearing, the character gets stuck doing the prompted action until you dismiss the dialogue and repress the button. Because of this fault, I had to watch my spectacled compadre innocently walk into lava several times. A final issue is that boxes cannot be covered in cavorite unless they’re directly next to you – for example, you can’t jump next to them and spray them with the magic liquid. This makes some situations unnecessarily awkward to deal with.
Overall, Cavorite is an engaging, lengthy experience (it took me between 4-5 hours to complete) with a lovely retro style and well thought out designs. It might come with a few minor issues, but thankfully none of them really stand in the way of the experience. Playing Cavorite left me with a good taste in my mouth, and that’s exactly what games should do. If you’re a fan of platform-based puzzlers, I strongly recommend that you buy it.