Prehistorik / P-マン

Prehistorik and Prehistorik 2 are a pair of platform games released in 1991 and 1993 (respectively) for various computer systems, including MS-DOS and Amiga. They were developed by the now defunct Titus Software. The last game Titus Software put out was Xena: Warrior Princess in 2001, so it’s safe to say that they are dead and buried. While they did give us such classics The Blues Brothers, Fire and Forget II and Carmageddon, they are also the group responsible for Superman 64. I’m surprised they didn’t go out of business and face a lynch mob after that spectacular fuck-up of a game. Prehistorik, on the other hand, is a fantastic platformer which has enough gameplay variation and ingenuity to put it a cut above the rest. The version I have is (I think) Prehistorik for the Super Famicon, only it’s simply called “P-Man”.

You play as a cave man, a very, very 90’s era cave man. He’s radical, that’s for sure. He has two attacks, the first is his trusty club, which is unlimited in use if not a little on the weak side. A lot of the enemies in the game need a few hits to take down. Our friend the caveman also has a scream attack. Basically it’s one of those attacks used to clear the screen of unwanted enemies. The scream has a bar which builds up a little bit when you take down an enemy, take down enough enemies and the bar fills up enough to use. It can come in pretty handy, and I definitely use it when I can, but I found the hardest parts of the game to be the platform and rope jumping sections.

The controls are good, even if movement is a little on the slippery side. The caveman gets a decent amount of air time, and the running jump sends him flying for quit a distance. Collision detection is decent, but I do find the club not always hitting when it really should. There was also an oddity regarding rope-climbing. The caveman can go up, but he can’t seem to go down. You have to let go of the rope and fall in order to descend. This makes the sections of the game where you have to jump from rope to rope while avoiding enemies to be quite tricky.

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The game is a simple platformer, but is also a little more than the tried and true ‘point A to point B’ formula. For a start there are heaps of items to collect, including cakes, French fries, and hamburgers. Not exactly what I envisioned the typical cave man diet to consist of, that’s for sure. There are hearts at the top of the screen indicating the caveman’s hit points. Extra hearts used to replenish his health are sprinkled throughout most levels, and some enemies burst into a bunch of small hearts when defeated. It’s not too hard to stay alive in this game.

At the beginning of most stages you will talk with a village elder who will give a little snippet of story, some advice for the level, and quite often an objective you need to complete. These almost always consist of simply tracking down a certain item and giving it to him, but it does add another dimension to the gameplay itself. Also, while the game is most definitely an action platformer, there are some puzzle elements as well. The club is also used to uncover hidden platforms and bust holes in the floor to reveal hidden areas, some of which must be found in order to finish the level.

All in all, Prehistorik, or ‘P-Man’, is a solid little platformer. I’m honestly surprised that I had never heard of it before, and probably even more surprised that it never seems to come up when people talk about great 16bit platformers. Highly recommended, to everybody.

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