Nostalgia is a funny thing!
Often time it kicks in when we see, hear or experience any form of art. The sheer joy of experiencing our long-time memories through these mediums is priceless. Most of the movies, music and books remain exactly the way we remember them. But the same cannot be said about videogames.
Often times our mind tricks us into remembering our favourite games in a much prettier façade than the real thing. And when we actually fire those games up is when we realise how badly those games have aged. While this applies to most 3D games from the late 90s, there are games that have aged like fine wine. These are 2D games from the same era that ooze perfection. And most of than not, they look just as pretty as we remember them.
One such game is the arcade beat ‘em up Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. There is so much about this game that made it as good as it was. Let’s take a trip down memory lane with Cadillacs and Dinosaurs.
I am not sure about the rest of the world, but back in the mid-90s, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs was a huge deal in the various gaming arcades of Delhi. Lovingly referred to as Mustapha, who happens to be the fan favourite out of the four selectable characters, this game was a staple for any arcade owner and the go-to game for arcade dwelling kids.
This was thanks to the value proposition the game offered by prolonged game time for skilled players for each coin credit. No other game offered this much playtime for a single coin at the time.
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs featured four distinct characters to choose from with up to three players taking on the game at the same time. It was during these sessions with multiple characters on screen that the game came to life. The sheer number of on-screen enemies and the bizarre events unfolding, combined with gorgeous 2d sprite art gave this game endless appeal and instant gratification to anyone even remotely interested in such games.
If the title of the game is any indication, you would know what to expect from a game like this. Tactile feeling melee combat, a plethora of weapons that are strategically placed and spawn from fallen foes, over the top bosses, a flashy Cadillac, and of course Dinosaurs. They are all there. The game had great game functionality and was excellently paced with no stage or sequence outstaying its welcome. It may have just been a couple of hours long, which makes sense for an arcade game, but it is the little nuances within that playtime that made this game such a worthwhile experience.
You may find a shotgun with 6 rounds of two rooms prior to the boss battle. The shotgun would be of great help in defeating the boss. But how would you deal with the other foes without wasting bullets and carry the gun to the boss fight?
There was no holster mechanic in the game and melee was disabled once a weapon was picked up. It was these kinds of meta puzzle elements that added so much more to the game making it more than the sum of its parts. Not to mention how differently the four characters played from one another.
While Mustapha’s flying kick may have made him a fan favourite, the eye candy element of Hannah, Jack’s perfect balance of speed and damage, and the slow yet brute force that was Mess O’ Bradovich, all brought a great deal of variety to the minute to minute gameplay.
Perhaps the most endearing aspect of the game is how cheesy it is in its delivery. The monologues and interplay between characters could rival even the cheesiest of 90’s action flicks. Of course, none of this mattered when you were a little kid who just wanted to kick bad guys and dinosaurs. But looking back at the game today with a better understanding of art, it is amazing how self-aware this game was back in the day.
The colourful aesthetics of the game, the over the top story, one-note villains and bosses, the 90’s era soundtrack, all made for a delightfully fun experience which would not be possible in today’s day and age where everything is taken way too seriously. In that respect, this game is a true gem from the past.
There is so much more that can be said about Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. Nostalgia aside, this was a great game at its core. It had great variety in its gameplay mechanics, distinct characters, and above all, was a whole lot of fun to play. Its short runtime was never an issue thanks to how much it crammed within that run time.
Unlike some games that have become a relic from the past, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs still holds up as one of the fun beat ‘em ups out there. The game may have been restricted to the arcade, but thanks to various emulation software this game can be experienced at home too. Just make sure that you own the game the right way, start playing and travel back in time. It is definitely worth your time.