Monday, July 15, 2013

The Cave Review


Hmmm I wonder where I've seen this before?

  • Developer: Double Fine Productions
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Release Date: 22 January 2013

Plot (5/5)
The premise of The Cave is simple. You control three characters as they descend into the Cave to acquire their deepest desires. On the way you'll learn about their darkest secrets which usually involve the spelunkers performing heinous acts in order to attain what they desire at any cost. You learn more about the history of each character by interacting with symbols that appear on the wall as you delve deeper into the Cave. Each time you interact with one of these symbols you are presented with one page of a comic – the idea being by the end of the game you would have pieced all the pages together to give you a full history of the character and the reason he, she or they are in the Cave in the first place.

Wit and humour often go hand-in-hand when it comes to games by Ron Gilbert and as a result the story is often a strong suit when it comes to his games. The Cave is no exception and while playing the game you really feel motivated to learn more about the darker side of each of the characters. The Cave (aka the narrator) makes some amusing quips every so often too. There are also a lot of in-jokes to previous Ron Gilbert games, the Monkey Island series especially, so fans of his work should feel right at home.

The background story for The Cave's characters are explained through comics like the one above.


Gameplay (3/5)
The Cave is a puzzle platformer so it's quite easy to learn the basics. Each of the characters also have a special skill that is especially important during that particular character's puzzle. For example the Monk has the ability of telekinesis that allows him to grab objects from afar whereas the Scientist can hack consoles. Many puzzles in the Cave require you to use all three characters at once in order to progress to the next area. The game is actually quite similar to Maniac Mansion in this regard since just like Maniac Mansion you have to pick three characters out of several characters to take with you on the adventure. Also like Maniac Mansion each character has different abilities.

Puzzles are fun and are personally at the right level of difficulty. Two of the puzzles I needed a walkthrough but it turned out that in both situations I knew what to do although it was just the controls that were holding me back (more on that later).

What annoys me is what you need to do in order to get the “good" endings. Yes, I'm telling you now (to save you some heartache) that there are actually a "good" and “bad" (default) ending to the game. I won't go into details on how you get the "good" ending but let us use a similar puzzle such as when Guybrush Threepwood acquires the eyeball necklace from the Navigator's Head in the Secret of Monkey Island. As you may recall, you acquire the necklace by begging many times for it. While in order to get the "good" ending in The Cave you must also do a certain action multiple times unlike Monkey Island where you actually needed the eyeball necklace (and would've eventually stumbled upon the solution) there is no requirement to get the "good" ending of the game and hence the only way I can see it happening is if you stumble upon it by accident. I didn't even know a good ending existed until reading about it on the Internet. If this was Mass Effect: No Paragon ending for you!

Cave Effect


Sound (5/5)
Audio in terms of sound effects are fine. There's not much voice acting in the game but the quality of conversations by the random characters you meet (and especially narration by the Cave itself) is humourous and fits the game well.

Music (3/5)
The soundtrack to the game is nothing memorable but it's a minimalist soundtrack to begin with; most of the time you'll just be hearing background noises. I have to say I liked the music on the Scientist's level though since it captured a sense of gravitas.

Graphics (4/5)
Graphically the game is generally good. The game employs a quirky 3D cartoon character style and the characters are animated smoothly.

Replay (3/5)
In order to get all endings you'll need to play the game at least 3 times (7 characters… well actually 8 if you consider the twins but they only have one story for both of them). While it's interesting to experience the different levels for each of the characters there are some common levels in between which you'll have to end up repeating (which can be a bit of a chore whenever you decide to replay the game).

"In order to get all endings you'll need to play the game at least 3 times"

Polish (4/5)
Controls are a bit strange and you can tell that it's a console port. There have been several times in the game where using a mouse to move around the level has been a hindrance making it quite easy to fail puzzles. I highly recommended you use a gamepad if playing this on PC (although maybe I should've followed my own advice?).

Score – 7/10

I still don't understand why Ron Gilbert doesn't just make another point 'n' click adventure game! The Cave has the trademark Ron Gilbert humour in there but in a puzzle-platformer package which is a pain to play if you're used to playing with keyboard and mouse. Also while the game is charming I feel a bit miffed about the secret (and I mean secret) alternate endings, not to mention the game's short length (6 hours). Thankfully the game isn't expensive so if you're a Ron Gilbert fan, it might be worth a look, especially if you can grab it when it's on sale.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam.

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