What is it?
Anthropomorphism is a common thing in games; we have any number of
animals given humanoid form and nature to act as our avatar in the
setting of a game. But never before have I come across a geological
structure as a principal (albeit not our avatar in this game) character.
The Cave does just that. The eponymous Cave provides both the
environment and the narrator in this new game from Ron Gilbert (creator
of Monkey Island) now working at Double Fine (Psychonauts).
Cave is an unusual game for me, because it
looks more like a side-scrolling platformer than an adventure game. But
who's to say what I'll discover in the company of Ron Gilbert's seven
miscellaneous, spelunking explorers.
Is there a plot?
introduces itself as a place that has been explored for thousands of
years by people searching for what they desire. It's a sultry sounding,
seductively voiced place. But first you must choose your representatives
on this journey. You have to choose three characters from seven
possibilities to descend into the Cave. There's a knight, a hillbilly, a
time-traveler, a scientist, an archaeologist, a pair of twins (okay,
there are two of them, but they come as a package), and a monk.
pick any combination of characters and the game will cope. There are
some parts of the story that you have to handle whichever characters you
choose, and a section of the game that requires the specialist talent of
each individual in your selection. This means that there are 35
different possible ways to play The Cave. I don't think I've ever
seen an adventure game with such an enormous degree of re-playability.
How do you play?
Cave is not a conventional adventure game; to
some adventure gamers it may appear to not be an adventure game at all,
with the 2D vertical layout of the Caves' tunnels (think 'wormery' or
vertical slice through a nest of ants). The game has a lot of '2D
platformer' about it with lots of running around and jumping over gaps
and climbing ladders, and so on. However, in the end, the game is about
solving puzzles aided by subtle (and not so subtle) clues from the
environment and the Cave itself.
Controlling the game is simple - point and click with the mouse, or
keyboard controls with left (A), right (D), jump (space), drop (C) and
activate (E) keys. You can switch between your chosen characters with
the 1, 2, and 3 keys, or by clicking on them in the bottom left corner.
As I've already alluded to, each character also has a special ability
(activated with the Q key). These are abilities such as walking through
locked doors, or hacking computer terminals, or swimming underwater for
an extended period. For each of the levels specific to a character,
their special ability is key to solving that level. And if you don't
have the character with you, then you cannot enter their level; there
will be a simple bypass route.
Throughout the game, you have to use your three selected characters in
combination to solve puzzles. A lot of the puzzles are concerned with
finding the right object - each character may carry one item at a time -
but others are about using the right combination of switches, or getting
one character to set something up whilst another pulls a switch. For
these latter puzzles, you need to switch characters quite quickly, at
which point the keyboard controls are easier to use. The timings are
fairly generous, but not overly so.
graphics in The Cave are quite unusual. They are a cartoon style,
with references to Edward Gorey and other morbid, surrealistic
cartoonists, mixed with the dark, damp passages of the cave, mixed with
mines, and various not-very-cave-like environments, like an Edwardian
mansion, a pseudo-medieval castle, a funfair straight out of Tim
Burton's imagination, and more. It's a very well constructed world, and
the game runs smoothly, and largely without bugs... except as noted
below. It's unfortunate that the bug I did find was quite nasty.
Any other novelties?
I played The Cave on a PC, it's also available on various
consoles, in which case you have the option of a co-operative mode where
two players can work together. However, the game will only focus on one
selected character at a time, so there's no issue with split screen
though, the prime novelty of The Cave is the simple ability to
choose three of seven characters to work with, and the variations that
offers in the adventure.
that The Cave is an odd game throughout would not be too
unreasonable, but unfortunately there are some actual bugs in the game
too. I managed to drop an umbrella and I never managed to find it again.
So I cannot now complete the Twins' Mansion level... and as there is
only one save slot, that's it, game over.
not to say that you cannot complete the game - I've certainly completed
The Cave with one combination of characters, but I'll have to
start from scratch now that I've broken my current selection.
of originality, style and sheer chutzpah, The Cave is right up
there with Ron Gilbert's previous work. It's such a shame that there are
some game breaking glitches, and no way to step back (say perhaps, to
the start of the current level) when you've come across one. The grade
of the game really does suffer when you have to throw away a couple of
hours of gaming because an umbrella falls through the floor.
What do you need to play it?
OS: Windows XP SP3 (Windows 7
Processor: minimum 1.8 GHz dual core
(recommended Intel Core 2 Duo at 2.2 GHz, or AMD Athlon 64 at 2.2
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Graphics: minimum 256 MB GeForce 8800,
Radeon 3850, or Intel HD 2000 Graphics
(recommended 512 MB GeForce 220, Radeon 4550, Intel HD 3000
Hard Drive: 1.5 GB HD space
Sound: DirectX Compatible Sound Card
a home-built 64-bit Windows 7
Home Premium (SP1) PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual
with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card, with
on-mother-board, built-in sound card)
is available for download from Steam or
Adventure Shop, and is also available for MAC, LINUX, Xbox 360,
PlayStation 3, and Wii U.