Cave Story: Power up
I would say the key to any decent platformer is a variety of fun power ups. Be it turtle shells, rocket launchers, or leaf shields — power ups can make or break a game. And being 100 years old, I have seen quite a few in my time. Much to my delight, the weapon power-ups in Cave Story are half the fun of playing the game. Maybe more.
But first, a quick aside. Gavin pointed out you do not have to fight Balrog, the “Oh Yeah!” shouting baddie, in your first meeting. He asks if you want to fight, and well, I selected “No,” just to see what would happen. Balrog said, more or less, “OK, see you later,” and left. Interesting.
Back to the power-ups — Cave Story has you collect items which increase the power, or Level, of your weapons. With each Level, the weapon takes on new abilities. It is a double-edged sword, however. Each time you take damage, so does your weapon, and after several hits, your weapon Level drops, making you weaker. This was an unique mechanic, which added a bit of extra drama to boss battles.
I had a lot of fun powering up the weapons to their maximum Levels, just to see the difference it made. Missiles became larger, rates of fire were increased, and so forth. My favorite discovery of the game was when I realized I could propel myself skyward using the powered-up Machine Gun. Just press Down and Fire — no more pit deaths or trying to make difficult jumps. Granted, one must exercise caution — the Machine Gun’s ammo needs to recharge after a lengthy burst.
The variety of weapons keeps the game fresh too, as each weapon has its own advantage or disadvantage. For example, the Fireball just bounces along the ground (not unlike in Super Mario Bros., just larger). This makes the weapon pretty much useless for ground-to-air attacks, but the Fireball can plow through herds of enemies on hills or slopes. The Bubble weapon was also fascinating, as it doubled as a shield (handy for running through a cloud of baddies).
It seems I get a new weapon every few levels or so, and I look forward to seeing what the rest of the game offers. I just hope I don’t end up having to use jelly beans against baddies.