How many mysteries does this cave hold? ..... 7 ...... it holds 7.
Review written by
January 25th, 2013
Anyone who is familiar with Ron Gilbert and his unique take on adventure and humor will understand what my tagline was going for. If not, then I have some explaining to do, and don't worry, I will explain. Monkey Island. Instantly that title brings very fond memories rushing back to many gamers that grew up playing point-and-click adventures in the late eighties and early nineties. Adventure games were once fresh and plentiful, but they have seen better days. Will a freshly injected dose of Ron Gilbert's familiar comedy along with his new take on adventure/platforming save this genre from getting lost in the dark?
The idea behind The Cave was born from Ron Gilbert, and collaborating with Double Fine Productions they have created something very... Ron Gilberty. Now, that's definitely not a bad thing, but not wholly unfamiliar. As soon as the game is started up the charm kicks right in. The cave is given a voice, a life essence and some wicked humor. Although the cave never physically moves on its own, that doesn't stop it from feeling very much alive.
The game begins with the cave dictating to you how all of the playable characters are not what you may think. All of them have acted selfishly for their own benefit. You are asked to select three characters and the cave will pass comment on whoever you choose. The characters I chose were a knight, a set of twins, which by the way are very "scary movie" style twins, and a monk. The other characters I will leave for everyone else to discover on their own, the way it should be.
The Cave doesn't hold your hand too much, which is great. Throughout the game you are left to figure out almost every puzzle on your own. Right away as soon as you pick your three characters, a very simple puzzle eases you into the journey and then you're off. All characters control similarly, with the exception of a special power. The knight engulfs himself with an orb that sprouts angel wings. This allows him to fall from a long distance or get shot at without taking damage. The twins' powers are just being a really creepy pair of twins. Seriously though, they have the ability to duplicate themselves to create a second set of characters in certain situations. Lastly, the monk has the ability to use his mind to bring certain objects towards him. All of these powers are useful in the character-specific puzzles. That's the real draw here - the puzzles and how to get there. The expedition to any one puzzle plays out like a loose platformer. Picture LittleBigPlanet or a more floaty version of the Super Mario Bros series. Characters jump across platforms to reach one of the few main areas inside the cave. The platforming mechanics here aren't as finely tuned as you might expect from a game where most of it is spent jumping from point A to B. This traveling aspect is where The Cave begins to show some cracks.
Another major problem I had during play was only being able to control one character at a time for certain puzzles. Sometimes there is so much back and forth between puzzles with carrying items and flipping switches, that it's an absolute chore and makes me wish for a better system. This doesn't occur all of the time and isn't game breaking, but it does damper the fun a bit. The gameplay also broke down when I encountered a number of bugs. I would clip through floors, through objects and while there are two buttons that kill your character to reset their place, I would often reset into floors and walls again. The kill button would always work after a few tries and didn't completely hamper gameplay, but it is an annoyance. Hopefully Double Fine can release a patch to alleviate some of these grievances.
On the presentation front, The Cave is entertaining and the gags never fell flat with me, although there were a lack of laugh out loud moments. Each character's story is presented through artfully crafted stills with a very brief description about that moment in their life. The stills gradually show how the characters became who they are now. Believe me, these are some twisted people. Picture a more family friendly version of Saw, where you play the corrupted individual and the cave tasks you with puzzles that hope to provide a self-growing experience. Does that happen? You will have to see.
The game's main commentary comes from the sentient cave itself, while some likable side characters that are equally amusing are provided as well. The voice acting, though a little sparse, is first class. Everything works smoothly in the audio department and there was obvious care taken by Double Fine in this regard. Music suited to each character plays throughout and fits in perfectly.
As for Wii U specific features, there is virtually no use for the GamePad's special capabilities. You cannot play on the pad alone without a TV and there is minimal use for its own little screen. Your three characters are shown on it and you can either use buttons or tap the screen to switch between them. To me, this just seemed like a waste of precious battery life.
The Cave is truly a unique game that can hold its head up high with the current crop of Wii U eShop releases. The fact that Ron Gilbert has spiced up the adventure genre with his latest endeavor is a great feat. While it certainly has its fair share of problems, The Cave is a lovingly crafted, fascinating story that should be played by everybody. This cave is worth spelunking through.
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