The Cave Preview
The Cave was an interesting curio. An unexpected treat on the show floor at this year’s Eurogamer Expo in London. Before hand I had paid scant attention to the title which, to be honest, was a huge mistake on my part. Coming from Double Fine and the mind of Ron Gilbert this curious little platform puzzler with a hint of adventure really made an impression.
The Cave has been an idea slowly building in Ron Gilbert’s mind since his early days at Lucasarts. A design for a large, sprawling adventure title had been sat in his draw for years until he and Tim Schafer, cohort from Lucas days, asked him to come along to Double Fine to work on the idea. A couple of years later we have the prospect of The Cave. A title that appears to be part Lost Vikings, part Metroid and part Maniac Mansion. I know right!
You take control of a selection of characters at the start of the game. The idea being that each character will have a strength that you will need to exploit at some point. You then progress until you need help, switch to another character and then progress with that character helping out the original one. It’s a simple dynamic that can afford some very complex and ingenious puzzle mechanics.
In the demo we had hands-on with you play a section leading up to a dragon encounter. To get there though you need to have several of your team down with you. One opens a latch, the other pulls a level to open a door then another runs through and pulls the final level to override all switches and leave the door open. To defeat the dragon you have to repair a hotdog vending machine, take the hotdog to the pit of spike in front of the dragon and throw the hotdog sausage on the biggest spike. Then one character rings a large bell near the pit of spikes whilst the other legs it upstairs and pulls the switch to activate a large grabber crane. Then whilst the dragon munches on the sausage the crane snags him and you can now pass underneath the inverted dragon safely. The further you get in to the game the more previously unavailable passageways will o pen up and let you explore – hence the ‘MetrodVania’ element of the game.
OK so not exactly highbrow MENSA level puzzle solving but still great fun. And fun seems to be high on the list of The Cave’s priorities. The graphical style is simple but looks great. So very reminiscent of Maniac Mansion, and its sequel Day of the Tentacle, in the style of art and characters. The humour too is spot on with similar childish quips thrown in as was with many of Gilbert and Schafer’s Lucasart adventure titles. A great example is as you approach the vendor that will unlock The Cave of the title for you he passes you an enormous key. It’s actually labelled Enormous Key and then he says “Take this enormous key and use it to gain entry to the employees back entrance!”. I know, childish, but still funny in context.
The Cave was great fun to play and playing it in Co-Op was also good fun. That said it did reveal a slight niggle in so far as when a player moves off screen the play follows only the primary player. So more often than not you can end up leaving player 2 behind or stuck. A simple split screen would reduce this problem but this initial build didn’t have it – maybe by design because of how the puzzles work – but was still frustrating at times.
Previous to laying my paws on The Cave I was unconvinced, uninformed and poorer for it. I dismissed the title as a throw away jaunt for Sega but instead it’s shaping up to be yet another superb downloadable title from Double Fine and a return to familiar ground for Gilbert.
The Cave launches of PS3, Xbox 360, PC and Wii U early 2013 – Sega reps at the show mentioned January but this is not confirmed.