Cave Story

JP: Dōkutsu Monogatari
Developed in Japan by Studio Pixel
Distributed as freeware for the PC in 2004; released for the Nintendo Wii in 2010

Cave Story looks like a winner on first sight. The controls are top-notch, the combat mechanics are unique, and the game world wonderfully unravels with the help of some solid storytelling. And with those qualities, the doujin title has become a cult hit. Not bad for one guy and five years of hard work? That is, until the game delves into some of the most absurd progress logic outside of the adventure game genre. That is, until the game recycles its faux-Metroidvania template in the name of aggravating fetch quests. That is, until you realize that Cave Story is completely devoid of challenge or difficulty, where the player can brute force the game world with little regard for his health meter, stumble into save points with terrifying regularity, and defeat bosses in seconds. One man making a competent action-platformer is a respectable achievement. Does that story of “indie” achievement make Cave Story a great game?  Hardly.