Adventure games have not only seen a very interesting resurgence over the past few years thanks to companies like TellTale, but are now doing new and interesting things to put a new twist on a classic idea. Any old PC adventure game fan who was around in the 80s and 90s should know who Ron Gilbert is. Well now Gilbert has teamed up with Double Fine to make The Cave, a game idea he has had for 20 years. It has a very familiar feel and is written in a way that's just as clever as any of his past games. Still The Cave doesn't play it safe and mixes in some very interesting new ideas that in some ways make it much more than your average Ron Gilbert/Double Fine game, but in others, less so.
The Cave tell a story of seven unrelated strangers teaming up to explore a mysterious cave in groups of three at a time. Gilbert explains that these different characters are here to "learn something about themselves and who they might become". All seven characters come from different times and places to explore the cave. There is a knight, a scientist, Victorian era twins, a hillbilly, an explorer, a time traveller, and a monk.
Each character has a different story for you to uncover in the cave and as you dive deeper with your trio you will be narrated by the cave itself. The cave talks to you the player constantly as they continue down their journey and explains bits and pieces of the story as you spelunk down him. Just like the rest of the game's characters, the cave is a hilariously written narrator that keeps you entertained throughout your trip down.
Once you start and select your three characters to play as, you will notice that The Cave feels like an a platforming puzzle game. Every character can run, jump, use items, and has a special power that only they can use. Also depending on if you are playing by yourself or with others, you will have to constantly switch back and forth since the game has no AI for the characters you are not controlling.
You will constantly be switching between characters in order to solve puzzles and this can easily become irritating, since the rest of your party doesn't teleport next to you until you are practically done with the puzzle. Even playing with others doesn't really help this issue, since the game only has one camera, and this stays locked on the main character at all times. You might as well just pass a controller around since most times the only addition co-op adds to the game is that they can help your party catch up to you.This also leads into the next big issue with the puzzles you need to solve in the cave. While they are very clever puzzles, most of them boil down to you having to run back and forth over the same area to get anything done. It is a real shame since actually solving these puzzles makes you feel so good about yourself (as long as you didn't look up the solution that is).
These two complaints really hold The Cave back. Starting the game you have this excited sense of wonder about what will happen and as you slowly progress deeper down the cave, things become more dark than you might expect. The Cave still retains a very light hearted feel about it, even as this happens and it never really gets brought down by the subtle dark tones of things. The cast couldn't have been better utilized or written for and are really brought to life perfectly here.
Double Fine has always been good at really knowing how to own their unique sort of art style and this remains true in The Cave. Mixing all of the different character's worlds and themes allows the world to meld together in the creepy depths of the cave. Nothing ever feels out of place and the characters in each area are full of witty one liners for you to listen to.
Sitting down and finishing The Cave can be done in one sitting so expect your first play-through to take about 4-6 hours. Still, replaying with other characters will take much less time, since you have solved have of the puzzles already. Each character has a specific puzzle only they can complete and after your second play-through, you will be have one character left to finish. So this means you will need to replay at least two character's stories twice to experience all The Cave has to offer.
The Cave get a lot right with its interesting story, characters, and of course, the talkative cave. However, there are a few annoyances with the game's design that keep it back from greatness. Repetitive puzzles and senseless backtracking bring The Cave down just enough to make it a good game, but with some glaring issues. Still if you are interested in a game that has a truly unique story, The Cave still easily stands strong among all the other puzzle games on the market today.
|Your first trip down the cave|
|The cast of characters|
|Your third trip down the cave|