The Cave

Players: 1-3 Offline
Publisher: SEGA
Genres: Adventure, Platformer
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Developer: Double Fine Productions
MSRP: $14.99
Platforms:
The Cave is a new adventure game from Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion creator Ron Gilbert, and Double Fine Productions, the award-winning studio behind Psychonauts and Brütal Legend. Assemble your team of three from seven unlikely adventurers, each with their own unique personalities and stories, then descend into the mysterious depths to explore locations including a subterranean amusement park and a medieval castle, not to mention a fully armed and ready-to-launch nuclear tipped ICBM. The Cave awaits.

The Cave is AWESOME!, 8.0 out of 10 based on 11 ratings

Assemble a team of three adventurers to descend into the mysterious depths of The Cave.


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VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
Rating: 8.0/10 (11 votes cast)

The Cave Review

Is this unusual team-up between Ron Gilbert and Double Fine Studios a case where different is good or should players look to avoid this particular spelunking expedition?
  1. February 02, 2013 at 06:34am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: -4 (from 6 votes)

    So, when’s “Awesome Video Games” returning?

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The Cave is AWESOME!

Posted by [ 1 year, 2 months ]

Assemble a team of three adventurers to descend into the mysterious depths of The Cave.

The Cave Review

Posted by [ 1 year, 2 months ]

Is this unusual team-up between Ron Gilbert and Double Fine Studios a case where different is good or should players look to avoid this particular spelunking expedition?

2nd The Cave Character Trailer Focuses on The Adventurer, The Knight, & More

Posted by [ 1 year, 3 months ]

Welcome to The Cave, where it is easier to get in than it is to get out…

Are You Ready to Enter The Cave?

Posted by [ 1 year, 4 months ]

7 enter. How many leave?

Double Fine and Ron Gilbert Announce The Cave for 2013

Posted by [ 1 year, 10 months ]

Ron Gilbert is back with a new game that all Maniac Mansion fans HAVE to see.

2nd The Cave Character Trailer Focuses on The Adventurer, The Knight, & More

Posted By about 1 year, 3 months ago

Welcome to The Cave, where it is easier to get in than it is to get out…

Are You Ready to Enter The Cave?

Posted By about 1 year, 4 months ago

7 enter. How many leave?

Double Fine and Ron Gilbert Announce The Cave for 2013

Posted By about 1 year, 10 months ago

Ron Gilbert is back with a new game that all Maniac Mansion fans HAVE to see.

The Cave Review

The Cave Review

The Cave is AWESOME!, 8.0 out of 10 based on 11 ratings

A knight, a time-traveler, and a hillbilly walk into a cave… No, it is not the start of a dirty joke, but instead the premise behind famed Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert’s first joint project with Double Fine Studios: The Cave. It is a title that is one part MetroidVania (the exploration of a massive and connected 2D world part, as opposed to the combat part), one-part Maniac Mansion, and one-part the most demented Twilight Zone episode ever (which is saying something). This means that The Cave is certainly different from the average game release these days and yet the question remains: Is this a case where different is good or should players look to avoid this particular spelunking expedition?

PROS Story, Characters, Visuals, Soundtrack, Puzzle design
CONS Reliance on backtracking, Need to replay completed segments to see new ones
WTF?! The twins. All the playable characters, but especially the Twins.

At its best, The Cave is a darkly enchanting and well-written journey through the psyche of a number of awful yet intriguing individuals. At its best, The Cave features lyrical puzzles that push the brain in the all the right ways and capture the spirit of the adventure game’s of old in a manner that also feels distinctly fresh. At its best, The Cave blends impeccable visuals (backed by the kind of strong design work one would expect from Double Fine at this point) with a corker of a score and first-rate voice acting to create a world that is both believable and completely unreal all at the same time. The problem is that The Cave is only at its best part of the time thanks to a number of significant problems that significantly hinder the title’s overall effectiveness.

Wow. There is something you don’t see every day.

However, let us first talk about what The Cave gets right before digging more into what it gets wrong, especially since it does indeed get so very much right. The basic concept of marrying the structure and controls of a MetroidVania title with the puzzles and story focus of an adventure game is a sound enough one in theory and it works more than well enough in practice. At the heart of the game are the sections dedicated to each character with the idea being that the titular cave is using its power to recreate aspects of a character’s life and history within its confines. Only once a character has completed their individual section can the party as a whole proceed and at the end of the cave the reward of their greatest desires in life awaits. It is a terrific setup and The Cave turns in true brilliance in terms of puzzle design, visuals, and storytelling throughout most of these segments.

Seeing all seven them is practically impetus enough to play through the game multiple times despite some problems that accompany doing so, as I will touch upon shortly. The Hillbilly and the Time Traveler are particular standouts, with the Hillbilly’s area featuring a twisted recreation of the carnival where he once worked and fell in love for the first time. Instead of the stylized human characters present in the rest of the game, this section makes use of cardboard cutouts for added effect. The atmosphere in this section is electric with the visuals and music in particular coming together to create a feeling that is equal parts exciting and sinister. This makes sense, seeing as how none of the characters in The Cave are good people and the way the game reinforces that–in ways both subtle and otherwise–is inspired.

This should look familiar to adventure game fans. Very familiar.

The writing is also top notch, plain and simple, with the game’s narrator, who is none other than the eponymous cave itself, being a standout. One of the chief pleasures of the game is hearing the cave chime in with some well timed piece of snark and its intros and outros for each character’s dedicated section works especially nicely in a Rod Serling hosting The Twilight Zone kind of way. Equally well realized are the game’s seven set of playable characters and the way The Cave manages to bring each to life without any of them having a single line of dialogue. Aiding this are a series of gorgeous wordless comic panels that are hidden throughout the game which are also the game’s only real collectible. Context appropriate to your current group of characters, these panels do a brilliant job filling in the demented backstory of the game’s ‘heroes’ and really add that extra punch to the overall story.

Unfortunately, not everything works in The Cave nearly as well the above examples. Take what is supposedly a major part of the game: the fact that, in a clear and deliberate nod back to Gilbert’s classic Maniac Mansion, each character has a unique special ability. The Monk, for example, can levitate objects with his mind, while the Adventurer has her trusty grappling hook, and the Scientist her ability to hack computers and doors. The problem is that outside of each character’s specific dedicated segment none of these abilities are ever really that useful. For that matter, even in those sections the abilities are rarely actually cleverly employed as a solution to the puzzles present. The abilities only exist to prevent players from exploring a character’s section without the character in question being on the team and this feels like a real wasted opportunity. The game tries to counter this by presenting optional uses for the powers throughout the five major sections of the game not dedicated to a given character, but it all feels rather forced and token in practice.

Some simply amazing art is used to tell the stories of the lives of the playable characters before they came to the cave.

Speaking of those five sections, this brings up another major flaw in The Cave: how repetitive it can be. These sections (two of which serve essentially as a prologue and epilogue to the larger game) each are around the same length as a given character section and come with their own mini-storylines, set of characters, and, of course, puzzles. For the most part these sections clearly lack the level of personality, detail, and overall strong design present in the character-dedicated sections. In addition, every time players do a run-through of The Cave these same five sections await them and since doing multiple playthroughs in order to see all of the character sections is built right into the game this can lead to tedium.

Things get even worse once one does a little basic math: there are seven characters but players can only take three at a time with them on a playthrough. Which in turn means that anyone who wants to see the story/segment of the character they pick last will not only have to replay the five required sections for a third time but two of the character segments they have likely just completed as well. This is simply an unforgivable design oversight and honestly Double Fine should have figured out a way around it even if that meant going so far as increasing the character count by two or reducing it by one. Considering how the Knight’s section features the weakest story, visuals, and puzzles of all the characters I know who I might have picked to remove.

I am starting to sense a pattern now.

Nor is this the only example of how repetition hurts The Cave. Unlike most adventure games, characters in The Cave can only hold one object at a time even while there are often a good sized number of interactive objects present to serve puzzle solutions in each area. There often tends to be a number of red herring objects with no use thrown into the mix as well. Combine all this with how spread out many of the sections are and you end up with more than one instance where players may find themselves having to repeatedly trek back and forth through the same areas again and again. The non-character sections compound this by each being largely built explicitly around this forced backtracking, which is annoying enough the first time around but almost intolerable on subsequent playthroughs. The fact that oftentimes players have to manually guide all three characters through a section or to a puzzle in order to progress does not help matters either.

Overall, there is a looseness and sloppiness to The Cave that I found legitimately surprising in a Ron Gilbert and/or Double Fine production. For example, I know the game is as much a comedy as it is a drama, but when one of the multiple solutions to a puzzle can directly create a massive and noticeable plot hole in the story of that particular section it is a problem. That this can potentially occur in at least three of the character sections, depending on your party make-up, is even more of one. It is messy in a way that, for example, Maniac Mansion never was. I do not want to come across like I am too negative towards The Cave though. There are many little touches and details throughout the game that I really ended up appreciating (for example, pay attention to the ‘trinkets’ and the areas they are found in during the early part of the game especially on subsequent playthroughs; also New Grog) and the craft of all those involved really does ultimately shine through.

The diversity of visuals in the game is impressive.

Still, however much affection and respect I might have for Ron Gilbert and Double Fine, the flaws of The Cave remain flaws, and significant ones at that. Yet, by no means am I recommending that players avoid the game. There is some real bite to the story and the way it plays with metaphor and more metaphysical concepts at times was particularly effective. There were undeniably multiple moments in the game that managed to give me chills in a way that reminded me of nothing so much as a really good piece of genre fiction–the kind with deeper aspirations than just wizards throwing fireballs or robots shooting lasers. Combine that with brilliant production values across the board and a low bar for entry via a modest price point and what is left is a game that anyone should consider worthy of their time. Just go into the experience with tempered expectations and the realization that with the good must always come the bad. Which is just the kind of lesson one would expect to find in… The Cave.

A copy of the game was purchased for review purposes and completed in about 5 hours. The title was played on Wii U, but is also available for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 (all digital-only).

Also, feel free to follow the reviewer on Twitter @bigred_13 please if you feel so inclined.

7/10

The Cave Review

Is this unusual team-up between Ron Gilbert and Double Fine Studios a case where different is good or should players look to avoid this particular spelunking expedition?
  1. January 26, 2013 at 02:53am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

    Erm… little note: there are technically fourteen endings. I won’t spoil how, but instead of having to go through with two characters unnessecarily, you technically only have to do it once.

  2. January 25, 2013 at 11:17am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Knight has the weakest segment? Darn, I chose him on the first venture. In his “castle” area now. I’m really loving the game though.

    You know what this game could use? A follow function, where the two other characters basically follow you and do what you do, kind of like being a Diddy Kong in Donkey Kong Country, they follow and don’t die ect. That way you could keep your peeps together.

    A fair review, I just always love Ron Gilbert games, DeathSpank being a stand out for me. And I’ve never beaten Maniac Mansion.

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The Cave is AWESOME!

Posted in Video Games Awesome! [ 1 year, 2 months ]

Assemble a team of three adventurers to descend into the mysterious depths of The Cave.

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