Thirty years ago, revered designer Ron Gilbert, of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion fame, had an idea for an adventure game and on January 23, 2013, it finally came to life.
For: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Ouya
From: Double Fine Productions/Sega
You begin with a choice of seven characters, each with their own unique story and special ability that will change certain parts of The Cave as you explore. Each character is simplistic, with names such as the Hillbilly, the Time-Traveller, or the Knight, but they all have a dark secret and an equally interesting back story that you will discover in your descent.
Special abilities also help to distinguish them; for example, the Monk can use telekinesis to grab items through walls or from a distance, which you will need to complete his part of the story or can change how you solve other puzzles. You can only select three to take at one time, however, and they will be locked with you until you make it to the end.
Puzzles are what make up the bulk of the gameplay in The Cave. The controls are very simplistic and consist of jumping and picking up objects to use for the puzzles. Each character can pick up one object at a time and you must use this in conjunction to get past certain areas. What makes these puzzles interesting is how they are just simple enough to get by with minimal frustration, but just challenging enough that they make you think and feel satisfied when you figure out the right combination.
The Cave also supports up to three-player co-op, one of its shining features, as solving puzzles as a group and co-ordinating accordingly is a much better experience than just playing alone, even if it might be somewhat unorganised at times. Since a character doesn't die when going offscreen you have to leave it in spots to pass certain puzzles (such as holding a lever while the others go through the open door), which in single player is fine but with three people you have to ''pass'' the camera, which I found sometimes didn't work properly.
Despite being an arcade game, the game looks as gorgeous as any major retail release, graphically and aesthetically. Even though it is set in a cave, its environments vary widely, going from dark and mysterious sections to vivid tropical islands. (Hey, if a cave can narrate then a tropical island isn't that crazy.)What really brings this game to life is its excellent storytelling and humour. Double Fine has shown itself to be master of combining the two in previous titles, and The Cave is no exception.
Each story is wonderfully interwoven, with transition areas to make it feel like it is all part of one big narrative, and the dark humour of the narration parallels the dark nature of each character's tale, making it weirdly hilarious. There are also collectable cave paintings throughout the descent that show each character's back story and sinister motives for achieving their ultimate desires. In the end, however, the conclusion did feel a little underwhelming, but the story leading up to it kept me interested and engaged the whole way through.
Any minor issues I may have mentioned don't detract from the enjoyment of this title at all. It will probably only take you about three to four hours total to finish a run through with each group, so replay ability isn't very high as the story and collectable artwork are really all that will bring you back. But it's well worth the experience you get out of this wonderful title with its simplistic gameplay, co-op and a hilariously odd story.
Grab some friends and explore exactly what lies at the bottom of the alluring, mysterious, talking cave.
- By Shane McKay