Although Codemasters is now famous for the F1 racing series and the various DiRT games, they've been around for over 30 years. What I remember them most for isn't their modern accomplishments but their unusual works in the early 1990s. They worked alongside Camerica, a distributor of unlicensed NES titles, to provide an alternative to the Quality-Sealed tyranny of Nintendo. They made those weird games about Dizzy, an egg with legs that travels on wild adventures, most notably. But they also had one other mascot under their belt: Bignose the Caveman, a caveman with a big nose!
Isn't this manual art just dandy?
Bottom line is, this Big Nose fellow is hungry! He is so hungry that when he sees a small pterodactyl flying gracefully through the sky, his thoughts immediately switch to a steaming bird on a platter, a sumptuous meal of delicious poultry just waiting for him. And off he goes, chasing after the pterodactyl... across four different islands, each with its own climate and topography but still within miles of each other. Oh yeah, definitely plausible. (Then again, plate tectonics could explain a few things.)
Each island is broken up into seven different stages, most of which are simple platforming. Your main form of defense is your bonking club, but by collecting stones, you can upgrade your club to the ultimate portable rock catapult where you can fire up to 3 stones at a time. This also doubles as a health meter; when you get hurt, you just decrease the number of stones to toss. Past zero stones, it's the boneyard for ye.
But the final stage of every island world is a little different, with Big Nose utilizing his almighty club as a makeshift helicopter blade, giving way to a horizontal shooter level in which Big Nose shoots rocks to defeat airborne enemies as he soars semi-majestically. It's a nice touch, even if each flying stage is so similar, they're practically interchangeable, and none is more difficult than any other.
At the end of every stage — and I mean EVERY stage, of which there are 28 in total — Big Nose comes face to face with a boss. They're typically dinosaurs or weird serpents, as other creatures weren't invented until the 14th century B.C. Some are large, some are small, but they all go down the same way: by taking a brash beating. They're fairly easy to take down, provided you have at least one level of rocks to toss. If you're down to the club, the dinosaurs will suddenly seem far more formidable.
And make no bones about it: there's a currency system in place, too. Bones are scattered throughout the stages and can also be attained from defeating enemies. From time to time, Big Nose will automatically stop at a nearby Neanderthal shopping center for club upgrades (or "clupgrades", as I will now call them...once), extra lives, and even spells! Yeah, that's right: Big Nose is magical. Let's just get that out of the way: Big Nose is a MAGICIAN, for goodness sake. He probably gets all the cavewomen, despite his rotund nose and inability to support the local meat market, instead getting his meat from other islands.
Now here's the thing: it has the "unlicensed" moniker about it. There's a bit of stigma behind them as being less than finished, amateurish by nature, or an utter disaster of code. But here's the thing about Big Nose the Caveman: it's actually very competent. I actually had more fun with this game than I have with many other NES games. The controls are solid, the levels are of decent length, the graphics aren't exactly top-notch but we need to remember that this is the NES we're talking about, and the soundtrack... well, it's got that weird wobbly sound that all European NES and Game Boy games had. There must be an infatuation with that sound over there.
Really, if you can get your hands on it, I'd recommend this one as a solid platformer! I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Take a peek:
Plus, there's a bonus word search in the manual! Joy!