Review: The Cave


How could I not be excited for The Cave when SEGA was publishing, Double Fine was developing, and the man behind The Secret of Monkey Island, Ron Gilbert, was behind this title? Now that I have finished the game, was it everything that I expected it to be? Were my hopes too high? Read on and find out.

The Cave takes a lot of queues from Rob Gilbert’s earlier game Maniac Mansion. You will see the similarities right at the start of your quest when you have to pick three playable characters out of seven (a bit like Maniac Mansion which allowed you to pick two characters out of six).

But unlike Maniac Mansion’s overall storyline about saving a cheerleader named Sandy Pantz, The Cave doesn’t really have a reason for our ‘heroes’ to explore the caves. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a story, there is. The story is dependable on the characters you select and lets you know more about the characters’ ‘dark secrets’.

Graphics

The game has smoothed out character models to achieve a pretty nice cartoon look. Even though the graphics aren’t going to win awards for best looking downloadable game, it’s still one of the better looking XBLA/PSN games. I feel that it’s the best looking downloadable title that Double Fine has done, even better looking than Stacking or Costume Quest. Now whether it has better art direction, that’s up to debate. I quite like their ideas for Costume Quest.

The better part about this game is the art style, straight out of games like Tales of Monkey Island, giving me that super awesome nostalgia that everyone on here surely loves. I just love how the characters are designed, I can’t quite put my finger on why, maybe it’s just the fact that it’s such a bizarre cast of characters. You have evil twins, hillbillies and time travelers?

Gameplay

Depending on what platform you play it on, you have different options. On the PC, you are allowed to use the mouse and make it feel like an old school click and point adventure game. Of course since the game is also on the Xbox 360 Wii U and Playstation 3 there’s controller support that makes it feel like a platforming game and trust me, you will be doing a ton of jumping and climbing throughout your cave exploring adventure. The only complaint with the controls for me are really the rope climbing, why does it have to be so damn slow? You can hold down a button and climb a bit faster, but when you are running back and forth, climbing those ropes gets really tiring. Even though the platforming gets the job done, don’t expect a great platformer. The idea of platforming in this game is to get you to point A to B so you can solve puzzles.

As I mention beforeed, the game allows the user to pick three of the seven provided characters, each one having their own unique power that will sometimes allow you to bypass some puzzles. The hillbilly can breath underwater, the evil twins can make ghosts of themselves, and so on. The only issue I had with the puzzles were that they all sort of done in the past. You find yourself going back and forth and fixing pipes, draining water and luring away obstacles in your path.

Don’t get me wrong, I like doing that sort of stuff, but when you have big people behind the project like Double Fine Productions and Ron Gilbert you expect something new and fresh. I mean, Rob Gilbert is one of the reasons I like these types of games, but the developers never pushed the game to the next level that I expected them to.

Replayability

Depending on what characters you pick, each one will have their own story chapter giving you backgrounds of each character’s evil deeds. These backgrounds aren’t really deep or emotional. Usually its more ‘interesting’ than anything. For example if you play as the Knight, you will take on the legend “Excalibur” with a morbid twist in the end, I like the witty dark comedic take on stories.

Since the game only allows you to pick three characters, you will have to replay the game to see all the characters’ story chapters. Each of the characters also has ‘cave paintings’ that also detail their past events. They personally don’t add much to the game and are pretty easy to find. On my first playthrough I found all of them for my main 3 characters. Another option the game allows is 3 player co-op, but in my opinion it isn’t worth getting for co-op. It’s cool that they added the option, but it just isn’t fun playing a puzzle game with friends. This is definitely a single player experience in my opinion.

Conclusion

The Cave has my favorite publisher, one of my favorite developers and directors on one project doing a Maniac Mansion inspired game, so did it hit it out of the park? Sadly, no. In a puzzle adventure game, it totally depends on how well your puzzles are and in my opinion most of the ones in this game are all been there done that. It’s good for a short distraction, but they didn’t take the creativity of the puzzles to the next level.

The game also suffers with the fact that there isn’t an overall big story, having the cast of characters’ back stories become the storyline. It’s a bizarre way to do a game, even though I did like some of the characters’ back stories, I do think the game suffers because there isn’t a plot to deliver to audiences. Oh, did I mention I hate the rope climbing mechanics? Because I do!

Positives: 

  • Great art style
  • Some good puzzles
  • Lots of value
  • Stephen Stanton does a good job as a talking cave

Negatives:

  • Annoying rope mechanics
  • Why are we in a Cave?
  • Those annoying rope mechanics
  •  Repetitive
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