Release Date: January 23 (Xbox Live, PSN, Steam), January 24 (Wii U)
Platforms available on: Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, PC, Wii U eShop
Developer: Double Fine Productions
The Cave is the latest release from Ron Gilbert, the man behind adventure games such as The Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion and more recently, the entertaining DeathSpank series. Much like the games that precede it, The Cave features a fiendish set of puzzles and dollops of humour in a package that's entertaining, if not without a few niggling problems.
It sees seven characters come together to explore a cave capable of bringing their hopes and dreams to life. Players select three characters at the beginning of the game, continuing through the cave with the same party, albeit with varying puzzles and areas depending on the group.
The Cave itself narrates proceedings, making lots of cutting remarks and occasionally dishing out hints as the characters journey through its depths. The humour is a little hit and miss, but it's a comedy style that's sure to go down well with longtime Gilbert fans, with enough genuine laugh-out-loud moments to entertain players from start to finish.
Each character has their own backstory, told in comic book form by discovering hidden emblems dotted about each location. Nearly all of the stories involve death and deceit in some form or another, making for some rather dark tales, which contributes to the black humour.
The minimalist approach to storytelling results in a narrative that creates just the right amount of intrigue, without necessarily leaving the same lasting impression as something like Monkey Island.
- "While they vary in difficulty, puzzles are well designed, requiring enough brain power to make solving them a satisfying experience."
The Adventurer, for example, craves individual glory and will stop at nothing to make the archaeological discovery of a lifetime. Using a whip to vault across pits and reach distant platforms, her own adventure takes place in a tomb full of ancient treasures and booby traps.
The Knight, on the other hand, has the gift of invincibility and wants to win the favour of the king, the hand of the Princess and the fabled sword Excalibur. To do so, he must use his powers and the other members of the group to overcome fire breathing dragons and trigger happy guards within a castle.
With character-specific areas and parties limited to three, The Cave is a game that demands more than one playthrough. We're not sure why the development team decided on seven characters, however, as we feel it would have made more sense to cut it down to six or round it up to nine.
- "Characters include a chivalrous Knight, a Hillbilly, a pair of evil Twins, an Adventurer and a Scientist, each of whom has a special ability and a part of the cave dedicated to their desires."
A simple puzzle sees players bypass a deadly beast with a hotdog, a bell, a lever and a mechanical grabbing mechanism. Once in position, it's a matter of using each character's respective items at the correct time by switching between the three via the D-pad.
Other puzzles involve simultaneously pulling switches to pass through doors, or using using different weight combinations to get a mine cart through a shaft. While they vary in difficulty, puzzles are well designed, requiring enough brain power to make solving them a satisfying experience.
Unfortunately, however, the 2D platforming element, which one feels was included to counter the slow pace of point and click adventure games, leads to one or two problems. With three characters on the go and each only able to hold one item at a time, players will spend a lot of time backtracking, which becomes incredibly tiresome, while the platforming itself handles a little clumsily.
The Cave also features a co-op mode, which is occasionally let down by a lack of group puzzles in certain areas. The section involving the Twins, for example, sees two supporting characters stuck outside of an old Victorian house for a lengthy period of time, while the Twins solve all of the puzzles within.
Though we're not sure about its multiplayer appeal, The Cave is an enjoyable single-player game with plenty of humour, lots of well designed puzzles and enough content to warrant two or three playthroughs, even if it's not entirely what the heart desires.