From The Archive is a series that takes articles written by Jennifer McMurray in the past and presents them here on MIC News for a new audience.
The Cave review was previously published on The Adventuress on January 23, 2013.
The Cave is available on consoles, smartphones, tablets, and on computers through GOG.com and Steam.
That’s where the similarity ends though, as The Cave is a much more sophisticated game. The game starts out with a set of three puzzles (which are the adventure game standard of three item fetch quests). However, those are merely training puzzles to get you used to the basic game mechanics. From there, The Cave becomes much more.
The Cave is a sentient being that acts as the narrator, all eight characters have come into the cave in order to get what they want most, and to explore the deep, dark parts of their souls to get them. The backstory for all of the characters is presented in still pictures called “Cave Drawings”, which are similar to the vault memories in Psychonauts. There are multiple endings for each character, as you decide how far you want to take their dark impulses. So, unlike most adventure games, there is quite a bit of replay value here.
The game is definitely an adventure game at its core, but as I stated previously, there are platform mechanics involved. You directly control each character (and choose between them with toggle keys on your joystick or keyboard), jumping over deep pits and over treacherous spikes (as well as using special character abilities such as the time traveler’s ability to travel forward through some objects and the adventurer’s familiar whip which can be used to swing over dangerous terrain). However, you can not die (Well, you can. However, you keep coming back, in essence getting an unlimited supply of lives). Most of the game consists of solving puzzles. You also have an inventory, however, it’s very limited as each character can only hold one item. So, you’ll often drop and swap items (or share them between characters) as you go. The nice thing is that once you reach a new area of The Cave, all of the chosen characters catch up with you automatically, reducing the amount of unnecessary backtracking considerably. The game also supports multiple players, meaning you can cooperate to solve puzzles with your friend or friends while each one of you plays one of the three chosen characters.
The puzzles are all done in the classic adventure game style, and they aren’t casual, so there is definitely some head-scratching involved. That said, none of the puzzles are as difficult as the classic adventure games Ron Gilbert was known for in the 1980’s and early 90’s, but a few of them left me puzzled for a while before I happened upon the solution. All of the puzzles are actually really well thought out, and fun to solve (and in my opinion are at just the right difficulty: challenging enough without getting too frustrating).
The humor here is top notch, as is expected from a game written by Ron Gilbert. It’s very much a dark comedy, though it’s all very well done. The Cave itself is the source of much of the humor, in its role as the omnipresent narrator. The humor also comes from the side characters, who, as to be expected with a Double Fine game, are an eclectic bunch. In classic Double Fine tradition (carried over from the team’s time at LucasArts), they have also included some subtle references to Ron Gilbert’s past adventure games.
In a first for a short downloadable game by Double Fine, each of the side characters that you meet in The Cave (and The Cave itself) are fully voiced (however the main characters remain silent, with the exception of grunts and groans). Each of these side characters receives eccentric voice work to match their personalities (but none of the voices are so eccentric that they could be viewed as going too far towards being annoying). The music is also well done. It’s suitably subtle (so there won’t be any tunes you’ll likely be humming afterward), but it fits the tone of the game well.
The Cave is a great way to start 2013. It’s an adventure in the tradition of the adventure classics while bringing its own spin on things, making it seem refreshingly original. It’s a perfect blend of adventure game and platform game mechanics should satisfy both adventure game fans and fans of puzzle platform games.
4½ out of 5