“For hundreds, nay, thousands, nay, nay, nay, tens of thousands of years, people have come to me in search of what they desire most,” explains a powerful omnipresent voice as the camera pans down an ominous forest in the dead of night to show seven travelers huddling around a campfire at the start of their journey. They understand the dangers, but like the many (dead) spelunkers before them, they heard about the almighty power of The Cave and couldn’t resist the opportunity for ultimate contentment. The Cave itself narrates as this greedy bunch is forced to relive their regretful past in return for a reward they literally can’t live without.
Our seven “heroes” consist of a knight, hillbilly, time traveler, scientist, adventurer, monk, and a set of creepy twin children. Each one has a unique ability that can make puzzles easier or allows access to secrets that might otherwise be unreachable. However, the game only allows you to choose three characters to control per playthrough, so multiple outings are absolutely critical if you want to see everything, and not just for exploration purposes. Each character has a very large section of the game devoted to their backstory. Along with a few interim locations and challenges, the levels devoted to the three characters you pick make up the majority of the game and change completely when different characters are selected. Not playing through the game more than once is essentially like only playing half the game.
Our seven travelers.
The Cave is an adventure game developed at Double Fine Productions and designed by Ron Gilbert (arguably the creator of the genre), and even though it still embodies the spirit of the old Lucas Arts adventures, it still feels like a modern day experience. Characters are controlled via simple platforming, the voice acting is engaging, and the puzzles remain challenging without feeling impossible. Not only does this help streamline the gameplay for longtime fans, but it also makes for a very approachable option for audiences who might be playing the genre for the first time. There’s still no feeling on the planet like solving a well-crafted puzzle (especially after being stuck for more than a few minutes).
Thankfully, the game gives you all the time in the world to figure out any head-scratcher it throws at you. Death is a very minor setback and no one is timing you. Every accomplishment will feel like you didn’t get lucky; it was all wit. This kind of satisfaction is hard to come by in gaming today feeling refreshing and nostalgic all at the same time.
As previously mentioned, many of the game’s environments and puzzles will be directly related to which characters you choose to bring along. Having the Adventurer makes for some cool Indiana-Jones style brain teasers, the Scientist forces you to hack mission-control computers at a nuclear launch site, and don’t expect anything less than a dragon and a princess when playing as the Knight. One of the coolest areas is crafted around the Time Traveler where the slightest changes 65 million years ago can make a world of difference for your problems now.
Watch out for crazy cave dwellers.
You can switch between each of your three characters at any time, and will often have to in order to solve some puzzles, making solutions sometimes feel unnecessarily complex. Without a button to easily call your partners to one location, you’ll find yourself spending too much time walking each character individually to specific spots to fulfill thankless roles like pulling a lever. Some of the tandem puzzle solving works well (especially in the time travel section), but it’s too inconvenient too often to be seen as a good thing.
Furthermore, even though you have a much more refined collection of items than you did in older adventure titles, the lack of an inventory forces you to leave your tools laying around in random areas until they’re needed, causing a lot of backtracking while trying to remember where you left that particular item you just realized you need. Items do glow ostentatiously as you approach them which makes the situation better, but an inventory couldn’t have hurt and would have saved players a ton of time. These inconveniences make for a game that is far from being broken, but a lot more troublesome than it needs to be.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Ron Gilbert/Double Fine game without the comedy, and The Cave fits perfectly with its creator’s past projects. Each character’s backstory is incredibly dark and twisted, yet deliberately over the top and endlessly hilarious. Every non-playable character you meet has a comical story worth hearing all while The Cave delivers some great one-liners that’ll keep you giddy for hours. With so many deadpan action titles in gaming nowadays, you can’t put a value on material so delightfully silly.
The Cave offers something truly unique and does so without arrogance or shame. It doesn’t take itself seriously, punish players for deaths, or force its biased morals down your throat. This is a game that invites you to follow a group of horrible people who have done some unforgivable things, and laugh at all of it. Solving puzzles is just as satisfying as it’s always has been and it’s a great first outing for curious gamers who’ve never touched the genre before. It isn’t without its flaws, but the good grossly outweighs the bad, demanding your dollar and making it worth every penny.
Great modern adventuring | solving puzzles is endlessly satisfying
Some needless backtracking
Little David Galanter grew up in Orange County, CA loving videogames and anything else that repelled girls. After getting his Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts, David decided to start contributing his soft silky words to the world via online media. He currently owns a website with a weekly podcast (www.drgman.com) and is a reviewer for Default Prime!
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