The Cave Xbox Live
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The Cave Product Details
Released on 23-Jan-2013
Assemble your team of three from seven unlikely adventurers, each with their own unique personalities and stories, then descend into the mysterious depths to explore locations including a subterranean amusement park and a medieval castle, not to mention a fully armed and and ready-to-launch nuclear-tipped ICBM.
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Down, Down, Deeper and Down
Caves have always offered fertile soil for the imagination, their impenetrable depths no doubt tugging at some ancient Cro-Magnon impulses still buried deep in our DNA. Tolkien filled his with beasts and riddles, while both Plato and Nietzsche looked into their dark recesses and saw reflections of the human soul. Ron Gilbert, on the other hand, sees The Cave as a place for puzzles and gags.
Prey For Mercy
Still best known for his classic vintage adventure games - among them the genre-defining Secret of Monkey Island - The Cave finds Gilbert returning to his roots in some ways, while deviating from them in others.
There are, of course, puzzles where you need to find and use items in offbeat but mostly logical ways. There are plenty of locked doors, the keys to which must be earned from a cast of bizarre characters or reached by opening up new areas. And there are jokes - lots of them - stirred into the plentiful dialogue with dark wit. The Cave itself narrates your adventure, and the fact that it's a self-aware talking cave is the source of some nice gags. This isn't a game that will make you laugh out loud, but you'll almost always have a smile on your face and a chuckle in your belly.
The game also nods to one Gilbert's earliest games, Maniac Mansion, by allowing the player to control more than one character. In the case of The Cave, however, it's a choice that has a massive impact on how the game plays.
There are seven characters waiting to enter The Cave, each with their own story to tell. There's a knight, a scientist, an adventurer, a time traveller, a hillbilly, a monk and a pair of spooky Victorian twins who operate as one character. You can choose three of these, and the layout of the cave adjusts depending on who you pick.
Inside the cave, each character has their own self-contained section which spells out a little bit about their history, as well as several core areas that will appear in every playthrough. These are often morbid moral fables, with each protagonist revealing some gruesome secret or terrible misdeed. So you'll explore a gothic mansion with the twins, recreating their fiendish plot to murder their parents. You'll jump back and forth from prehistory to the far future as the time-traveller conspires to eradicate a workplace rival. The scientist thinks nothing of taking a bribe in exchange for nuclear devastation.
It's a nice twist on the standard video game heroics, and does a good job of tying your progress through the puzzles to a larger story. As you work out what you need to do next, you're working out what your characters did to earn a spell in the cave. A little more info can be teased out by finding a series of glowing markers for each character, scattered throughout the game. Each one unlocks a comic style panel, depicting a key moment in the character's past.
Acid House Party
But The Cave isn't just an old-style puzzle-based adventure game. It's also a co-op platform game in the style of indie hits such as Trine. Getting from one area to the next, and navigating within each section, is done by running, jumping and climbing across platforms, ladders and ropes. There's no death in The Cave - if you take a fatal tumble you immediately respawn - so that can't help but leave this exploration angle feeling a little superfluous.
Many of the puzzles require a lot of trekking back and forth, first while you work out what needs to be done, then as you bring all the objects you need to the right places. Each character can only carry one object at a time, so even once you've solved a puzzle actually implementing the solution can involve a lot of pointless retracing of your steps over the same obstacles multiple times. It doesn't help that interaction with objects can be fussy, particularly if they overlap. A couple of the puzzles rely on fairly arbitrary solutions as well - such as holding an object in place rather than simply blocking it by standing in its way.
Clash Of The Terror Titans
These issues take the shine off an otherwise enjoyable and charming game, but Gilbert's sense of humour pulls it through. The decision to break the game down into smaller sections also makes it more manageable, and means there's always a strong urge to see what's coming next. Having seven characters means that a second playthrough will contain a big chunk of new gameplay, but having one character left over for the third playthrough is a little awkward.
Even with its minor flaws, The Cave is a quirky and memorable game and one that is recommended for fans of classic adventure and puzzle games, as well as anyone looking for something a little bit different.
- Well-written and very funny
- Some clever puzzles
- Local co-op play is fun
- Backtracking gets annoying
- Some controls are clumsy
- Puzzles tend to be a bit easy
The archaic point and-click-adventure - it's a genre that's been declared dead more times than Doctor Who. So it's perhaps high time it got a makeover, and who better to reinvent it than Ron Gilbert, maker of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion? The Cave sees all that pointing and clicking banished, replaced with pseudo-3D side-scrolling platforming action through some beautifully cartoon-esque subterranean environments.
Item-packed inventories have also been shown the (trap)door - only a single item can be held at any one time by your onscreen character. And for those of us sick of squinting like OAPs at our screens trying to spot vital items, all important objects are quite literally labelled. So far, so good then. But what about, you know, the game itself?
Before heading out, create a party made up of three characters chosen from an eclectic cast of seven - for example, the knight who wants to prove his valour to a princess or the adventurer who wants to hunt down the greatest of treasures. Each has their own special ability plus special area within The Cave but more intriguingly, their own dark motives for why they are really in there risking life and limb.
The Cave is not only a place to explore but a living entity too, spouting out often hilarious narration as you traverse its many locations that are made up of subterranean medieval castles, amusement parks, nuclear silos and more. The gameplay itself has a smattering of Trine to it with the three characters sometimes needing to be used as a team to solve the game's puzzles.
And talking of puzzles, there's plenty of them, all presented with Gilbert's trademark comedic style. While there's no hint system to run crying 'mummy' to (Gilbert's only concession to the old skool), the puzzles are never so obscure as to leave you wanting to punch your TV right out of your living room window.
What you're left with then is something refreshingly new but reassuringly old that offers funny characters, suitably whacky puzzles and an imaginative storyline that begs for multiple playthroughs. Twenty-five years well-spent we reckon, Ron.
The Cave - Review (01/02/2013)
A quirky and memorable game and one that is recommended for fans of classic adventure and puzzle games, as well as anyone looking for something a little bit different…
Editor's Choice - The Cave (28/01/2013)
Point and click pioneer Ron Gilbert is back with a new puzzler that's been 25 years in the making - welcome then to The Cave…
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