Who likes witty humour raise your hand? Who likes puzzles? Who likes those old school graphic adventure games? If you raised your hand for all three then get set for The Cave, an old school helping of fun that tries to continue the revitalizing of the graphic adventure genre, and is brought to you by Ron Gilbert himself, of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island fame.
The Cave is very simple. Choose three characters from a diverse set of seven and travel through the cave, and completing puzzles preventing you from progressing, to reach your prize. The player’s experience changes depending on what characters you select through two ways. First, each character has a specific special move only they can do. The Knight can become immune to damage while the Adventurer has a grappling hook to swing around like Indiana Jones, for example. This lets you solve puzzles differently depending on who you bring with you, making certain puzzles shorter or longer in the process. Secondly, each character has their own specific stage they must complete in-between pre-determined stages. My first party was the Knight, Adventurer and the Twins, letting me experience their story stages. But if I want to play the Scientist stage I have to have her in my party, making multiple playthroughs more or less tedious depending on your party make-up.
Part of the replayability of the game depends on how much the gamer cares about seeing the whole backstory of the characters and completing the puzzles in different ways. As the player progresses through the stages they come across glowing glyphs they can activate to collect art that fills in the character’s back stories and personality. Some of these areas cannot be reached without using specific characters. For example, the Hillbilly can hold his breathe in water to let him reach submerged sections not accessible to any other character. Although the stages themselves will never change, by changing the party the puzzles can be handled differently. The Time Traveler’s ability allows her to go through objects like doors, making getting items like keys a lot easier and less time consuming.
Without doing a little digging I immediately got a Maniac Mansion/Monkey Island feeling when playing the game, and that is the bread and butter of The Cave. The gameplay mechanics are nothing new; the core action revolves around rudimentary puzzle and platforming segments, the likes of which we've seen before. However, the humor is what hits you right away the moment you press start as the Cave itself tells you he is the narrator, and continues making comments as the game progresses. This is the key part of The Cave and what makes it appealing to play and continuously replay. The dialogue is top notch, and coming from the mind of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island I would not except anything else. Constantly playing the game, I cared more for progressing just to hear the next witty comment from the narrator than I cared about actually doing the puzzles.
While the humor is the major draw of the game it is also it’s Achilles Heel. Seven characters mean three playthroughs to hear almost everything and unless the humor had you rolling on the floor it is unlikely to get you going through the game more times than needed. The puzzles are not the hardest, and most are boring simply because of the time it takes to go from place to place collecting stuff with nothing to do in between. A character can only hold one item at a time so it means switching between characters constantly and moving them around and back tracking. It felt like more of a waste of time and work than it was fun in a game such as Maniac Mansion. Although one saving grace is there is zero loading time. No loading screens, no save screens, nothing to stop the gameplay. When you die the character just reappears as if nothing happened and the game continues.
Graphically this is not a colossal titan and doesn’t even come close to taxing the PS3’s graphics engine. However, the visuals are smooth and sleek, looking artistic rather than bland in its cartoonish style. The character designs are also fun to look at as they add to the humor of the game. Seeing the Knight stand there and tentatively tap his hands together as if he were afraid of dying by some unspeakable doom in a haunted house was a fun contrast from his brave and fearless counterparts.
At the time of release The Cave is crippled with game breaking bugs which hurts such a delicate genre as this. The game does not have multiple saves. If you want to start a new game you have to overwrite your current game, which means bugs ruin hours of gameplay. I had to restart after running into a bug involving the Adventurers ability to jump off ladders making it impossible for me to get out of a pit and continue. After doing some research on the game’s forums these glitches are not an isolated incident as they are wreaking havoc with players on the 360, PC and PS3, with different platforms suffering from some glitches that other formats do not have.
At the end of the day The Cave is what it is; a graphic adventure game that has witty humor, and if that's your thing then you'll find it an enjoyable romp. The demo is free to try out for those who never tried the genre before or are afraid of the bugs. If you are a fan of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island type games, namely a focus on dialogue and story rather than action, then this is a game you will enjoy. If you need to be killing hoards of enemies or head shotting people to have fun then this is definitely not your cup of tea -- there isn't even an attack button.
-The Final Word-
A graphic adventure game that has triple-A humor but lacks the substance to be an ever-lasting gem. Great for a single run through or to enjoy a laugh with friends, but once the laughs die down so does the game. Only lovers of the genre will keep coming back for thirds and fourths.