I’ve been a great admirer of Ron Gilberts work for many years – in fact the Monkey Island series are some of my all-time favourite games. When the former Hothead Creative Director released two pieces of concept art for a mysterious adventure game back in 2011, it was fairly hard to contain my excitement.
Prior to its official reveal, we also learned that this new game was being developed in partnership with former colleague Tim Schafer and his studio, Double Fine Productions. The pieces of the mystery game puzzle (Gilbert and Double Fine literally sent out a puzzle for press to complete) came together in May last year when the self-professed ‘Grumpy Gamer’ and SEGA unveiled the adventure puzzle platforming game we see before us here today – The Cave.
The Cave itself has been described as “a place like no other” and when you’re a self-aware talking cave that has the ability to seamlessly mould your environment to cater to your adventuring occupants, it’s pretty hard to argue that point. Whilst many have traversed The Cave before, players are given the option to choose three adventurers from across time and space to help them find what they are looking for.
Each of these wonderfully crafted characters has their own unique style and ability. The Knight possesses an angelic power of Invincibilty; The Hillbilly creates an air bubble helmet to travel further underwater, The Time Traveller can phase through certain barricades; The Scientist possess the ability to hack specific machines; The Adventurer is armed with a grappling hook to swing Indiana Jones style across ravines; The Twins can create ghost versions of themselves, allowing them to activate objects without having to be there; and The Monk has commanded the psychic power of telekinesis.
Having previously gone spelunking solo in the ominous cave at last years Eurogamer Expo, I employed a partner in crime for a multiplayer playthrough – The Cave offering its experience for up to 3 players locally. It’s here that my biggest gripe with The Cave comes up as playing with friends becomes a bit tedious at certain points.
The core gameplay of The Cave is centred around switching between your three chosen characters to solve puzzles. Having additional players means that each player will take control of one of the 3 adventurers with the option to swap if you feel like a change. The problem is that at certain points in the puzzle you will find yourself having to complete longer sections solo, employing the additional team members when necessary. This equates to a lot of waiting around for the players not carrying out the task.
This was particularly noticeable in the pyramid level for The Adventurer, which contains two of the characters in one area for the majority of the level; and the future and prehistory level for The Time Traveller, which starts off primarily focusing on the levels key character. The lack of a splitscreen or another supporting mechanic makes these sections rather tedious.
One of The Cave’s most innovative features is the dynamic progression of the levels within. As you progress The Cave will transform into set areas for each of the characters, including a carnival for The Hillbilly and a creepy graveyard for The Twins. The gameplay is seamless and you won’t find yourself interrupted with jarring loading screens. Furthermore you will come across hints to other characters levels that you currently aren’t playing – encouraging multiple playthroughs to see everything the game has to offer.
The puzzles in each level are the main focus of the game as you are tasked with completing them in order to move onto the next section. Some of these puzzles are relatively simple and require little thought however some of them require a bit more thought (I’m looking at you, carnival magician). This certainly felt like a throwback to the glory days of the adventure and point and click genres of gaming where you would often find yourself wrapped in frustration until the penny finally drops.
Puzzles are solved by combining a mixture of classic platforming running and jumping, utilising items that you find, and the characters own unique abilities. It’s widely acknowledged that the point and click adventure genre needed to adapt and evolve in order to survive and The Cave has achieved this fantastically well by marrying up these different mechanics.
Overall, The Cave serves as the perfect example of how an adventure game in this current gen of gaming can work fantastically well. Its superb art style (including the awesome narrative cave paintings which I have to commend artist Daniel Krall for) is something we’ve come to expect from Double Fine titles, and The Cave is no exception. I really would have liked to have seen The Mobster character make it in the final cut as you really feel the desire to see each characters story.
With Telltale Games The Walking Dead achieving hugely positive critical and public reception, I’m certainly hoping that Gilbert and the Double Fine crew will tread old point and click ground in the future. Until then, we’ve got The Cave to enjoy and more adventuring fun with the Double Fine Adventure project to look forward to in the future.
Bonus tip – For an extra giggle, keep honking the clowns nose.
For those of you struggling with The Cave, here’s some top tips and hints on how to beat the game and unlock those pesky achievements.
The Cave is out now for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.