|Title: The Cave
Publisher: SEGA/Double Fine (Wii U)
Developer: Double Fine
Console: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Point-and-click adventure games have been experiencing a resurgence in popularity over the last few years, largely thanks to studios like Telltale Games. It’s even reached a point where a point-and-click adventure game has become Game of the Year in major publications. But despite these kinds of games having amazing stories, most of them still aren’t very fun to play. Ron Gilbert, the man behind The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, attempted to change that by combining Metroidvania titles with adventure games. The result is an interesting journey through The Cave.
You play as a group of three out of the seven characters available to you. This includes The Hillbilly, The Scientist, The Monk, The Knight, The Time Traveler, The Twins, and The Adventurer. None of these characters have any spoken dialogue, outside of grunts, shrugs, and death sounds. You do get to learn the backstories of each character via special paintings you find around the cave, similar to the Memory Vaults from Psychonauts. Unlike the Memory Vaults, these paintings reveal each character’s dark side.
You’ll mostly spend time with the cave itself, simply known as The Cave. He acts as a storyteller of sorts, similar to Tales from the Cryptkeeper and The Twilight Zone. While the Cave and a few other minor characters are a joy to listen to, it would’ve been nice to hear at least some dialogue between the playable characters. It would’ve also been nice to see at least some good qualities in each character. I know that each character has to do a horrible thing in order to progress, but that and the cave paintings just…er, paint them as pretty flat characters.
You’d be forgiven for thinking The Cave is a Metroidvania-styled platformer. While it does borrow elements from the Metroid and Castlevania franchises – namely, the way you navigate through the environment – it is most definitely not a platformer. It’s a slimmed-down adventure game designed for consoles. Instead of an inventory system, each character can pick up and hold onto only one item at a time, meaning that you can have up to three items between your group. This will most likely disappoint those who enjoy other Metroidvania games.
Those of you who’ve played more complex point-and-click adventure games might be a bit worried at this. Most adventure games have you have to carry every single item you pick up because you never know whether they’d be useful at the end or not and OH GOD, I PASSED OVER THAT PIECE OF PAPER A WHILE BACK AND I NEED IT FOR THIS PUZZLE, I’M SO F***ED! Thankfully, you can rest easy. Similar to Zack & Wiki, every item in the game has precisely one use and you never have to use it again. While some point-and-click adventure fans might be put off by this, it has the nice benefit of the puzzles not relying on moon logic to solve, which is a huge plus in my book.
Each character also has an ability that lets them access specific areas of the cave. For example, The Adventurer can use a grappling hook to cross wide chasms or reach higher ledges as long as there’s a hook to grapple from. The Time Traveler can phase through thin walls. The Scientist can hack computers to unlock doors or take control of certain machinery. Unfortunately, they’re mostly used within their specific area. When you’re in one character’s specific area, the other two are pretty much there to pull switches and allow one character to continue on.
It won’t take you long to finish the first playthrough of the game, clocking in at just a few hours. But since you can only select a small group of the seven characters available to you, this means you’ll want to play through it again a couple more times to see the stories of each character. Since there are only seven characters to choose from and you can only take three with you, the third playthrough will have you replaying parts from two other characters. You’ll also have to replay some fixed chapters in the game in each playthrough. This will most likely be a bit of a turn-off for some who aren’t keen on replaying a couple sections.
The Cave is an interesting experiment to see unfold. The change in gameplay made navigating through the cave more enjoyable and less frustrating, but it will most likely bore gamers who are expecting Super Metroid levels of action. Ron Gilbert’s writing is as strong as ever, but the main characters themselves are pretty uninteresting. The puzzles may be straightforward and easy for some, but I honestly prefer this over the moon logic used in other adventure games. It’s not an outstanding title, but it is worth playing through at least a couple times.