The Cave (XBox360) Review
Great voice over and character in The Cave itself
Genuinely well written and funny
Not so much?
Co-Op could have been a little smoother and ditched the single screen
Short length and repetitive in places
The Cave was a game I was really looking forward too – based on the performance of games I’ve been looking forward to over the last year I was worried The Cave might also disappoint. No such problem here though as Double Fine prove once again just how valuable they are in the downloadable marketplace with a game that transcends that label.
The Cave was one of those games that grabbed my attention early. When Double Fine made the announcement that Ron Gilbert was in the house and working on a new IP with the DF team, I almost peed a little in excitement! Flash forward to September 2012 when I actually get my hands on the early version of the game, and I’m twice as excited for it as I was to start with.
The Cave sees its release this week and I have to say my expectations for the game have not diminished over time. Surely no game can live up to the expectations set in your own head? No, it can’t. But it can be something superb, nonetheless. The Cave is a gorgeously crafted traditional point and click adventure game secretly hidden inside a charming and accessible platform game. You take three adventures, from a possible mix of seven, down into the charming and well spoken Cave… oh did I not mention it yet? The Cave is actually sentient and will narrate the exploits of the adventurers as they go along their merry path through The Cave.
Picking the three you want to take down with you will ultimately determine the path and puzzles undertaken by your intrepid squad. Different characters, for example Time Traveler, Adventurer, Evil Twins, all offer up a different set of skills. These character’s unique skills (grappling hook, teleportation, hacking etc) mean that you can resolve puzzles in slightly different ways. This adds to the overall longevity of the game – which is a good thing as the first play through will most likely take you about 4 – 5 hours dependent on your skill level in solving the myriad of inventive puzzles.
The Cave has a wonderful aesthetic to i,t with something akin to an 8-bit classic of Gilbert’s glory days having had a wonderful hand-painted refresh. It makes the world seem simplistic but rich – simple yet complex… it really is a nice look, is what I’m striving for here and wholly unlike most other games. The sound design is great too. Well used vocal and sound clues not only enrich the game but – and this is key – also serve as pointers in some instances to puzzle solutions. Voice work is superb and often hilariously funny. The voice over by The Cave itself is wonderfully played, and offers up one of my favourite new characters…. which is weird as it’s actually a setting….but still.
The game utilizes some very smart puzzle and environmental logistics to manipulate the players. You will traverse similar and the same parts of The Cave over and over during your time with the game – so much so at times almost muscle memory clicks in and you disengage from the traversal and think more on the puzzle elements. This is a good thing, as these are puzzles the likes of which you probably haven’t seen since the earlier point and click titles. Strange combinations, minute nuances that, once they “click” in your head you’ll perform repeated forehead slaps with cries of “Seriously, why did I not see that?!”. These are smart puzzles – and I appreciate them greatly!
The Cave is not without its problems, though. Longevity is one, as mentioned above – yet playing through with different sets of characters will garner some variation to the progression and thus might capture you a second time.. third time might be pushing it though. There were some super cryptic puzzles in places. Some might flinch at them, but you should never truly become stuck in The Cave. You might just hit the odd speed-bump! There are a small number of clipping, geometry and stuck puzzle bugs that crop up infrequently that possibly show maybe a lack of final polish to the game.
The game features a fun co-op portion as well. Grab a friend and hand them the controller and sit on the sofa/couch/bed and puzzle things out together. As noted in the preview I did, the co-op here is more turn taking than truly co-operative play. This is due to the way the characters alternate, and sometimes the other player will be left twiddling their thumbs whilst you setup the solution to the current challenge. This is never truly disengaging though, as you will be discussing the solution to the problem. Just because player 2 is not moving a stick, doesn’t mean they’re not engaged in the playing of the game. Maybe this would have worked better using a LEGO Series style split screen for play but it achieves what it wants and at least gets the players interacting in new ways.
The Cave is also genuinely funny throughout. Sure some of the gags miss the mark, and at times you’ll be more concerned with the job in hand than the comedy BUT the game has been cleverly written and that’s such a nice change. It has the odd issue here and there. A few blemishes that knock numbers from it – but in terms of being an enjoyable gaming experience it’s one of the best games I’ve picked up in ages. This was a game I was really looking forward too – based on the performance of games I’ve been looking forward to over the last year I was worried The Cave might also disappoint. No such problem here though, as Double Fine prove once again just how valuable they are in the downloadable marketplace with a game that transcends that label. The Cave is smart, beautiful and funny on a level rarely seen in video games. There is a reason Ron Gilbert’s games are revered and quoted from.