The Cave Review
Controlling a slack jawed hillbilly, a brave young knight, and a murderess monk (other playable characters also included) as they go spelunking inside a talking cave is likely something that’s never, ever crossed your mind when thinking of a game you would like to play. Welcome to the mind of Ron Gilbert (not to be confused with the funny Welshman Rhod Gilbert) the mastermind of fan favourite adventure games Maniac Mansion and the Secret of Monkey Island. Frankly, I’m unsure as to what goes on in that man’s mind, but the Cave gives you a pretty good idea (whatever he’s smoking, I’d like some too!) but he is most certainly a genius, the craziest kind of genius. The Cave is an incredibly charming, yet surprisingly dark tale which adventure fans should definitely enjoy.
As soon as The Cave starts you realise what you are in for, as your narrator (and also the cave you will be spelunking in) sets the stage, introducing your seven playable characters, and giving you the details of their particular mission. Choosing three characters is extremely difficult, because all of them are incredibly unique and stand out. You’d do well to enjoy the Cave’s voice though, as he’s (or it?) is mostly the only thing that ever speaks in the game, causing long moments of silence as your silent characters do nothing but grunt and groan as they run around the different environments in the cave.
The Cave has four main missions that you must complete regardless of your character choice, and seven missions that are character unique (one for each character, obviously). While the main missions are a lot of fun, it’s in the unique character missions where the game truly shines, as you travel back in time to the dinosaur age with the time traveller or attempt to pull the Excalibur from the stone and win the love of the princess as the knight. Although the character missions add tonnes of replayability, you still have to complete the four main missions every single time, which gets extremely tedious if you want to complete every unique character mission (match-sticks for your eyes come highly recommended).
The Cave is made up of two things, platforming and the puzzles (but mainly the puzzles, and thank the Cave for that!). While the platforming isn’t necessarily bad, it’s not great either, whether your trying to drop from two staggered ledges and constantly grabbing one of them, or falling two feet and dying in a puff of smoke (I say dying, luckily the Cave won’t allow you to die due to his extremely high insurance premiums, praise the recession!). Luckily though, The Cave more than makes up for it when it comes to the puzzles, which are all incredibly unique, fun and yet challenging at the same time. While difficult, you’re never going to get any new fist shaped marks in your walls as a result of a puzzle (if I’m incorrect, seek help) allowing you to never get stuck for too long that you become sick of the game. Ron Gilberts mind is obviously prominent throughout the puzzles, as you perform such tasks as luring a dinosaur out over a giant mechanical claw using a hot-dog that you received from a vending machine, yes seriously.
Controlling all three characters at once can be a huge pain, but comes with the games territory as you must often use all three characters at once to perform a task to further your progress in a puzzle which is all well and good. On the other hand, you often have to take each character one by one to the same location, which had me extremely frustrated and bored at times, and something that could have easily have been remedied. Include item management into that too, and you’re not exactly having a ball. If you’re a fan of puzzles, you’ll be in your element here, and although you’ll often be holding your head and racking your brain, you’ll get there eventually. And I don’t mean by looking at YouTube, the Cave see’s everything!
The backstory of all the unique and loveable (except for maybe the murderess twins) is fed to you through collectables in the form of Cave paintings, in which you’ll find out more about the characters past, along with a snazzy achievement to boot, if your into that kind of thing! While you still never really learn anything of note, it’s still a great addition to further your knowledge of the silent group of protagonists, and great for collectors too.
The game looks great, and although you are in the same cave the whole time there are plenty of unique looking environments from a castle, to a carnival, and while these things likely would surprise even the most seasoned spelunker (the word of the day), our quick witted heroes (not including the hillbilly, I guess) must spelunk their way through, all to reach the bottom, and find out more about themselves throughout. With its great looking cartoon style and it’s great, but limited sound really adds to the immersive experience of delving down into the Cave.
The Cave is a competent puzzler platformer that is good, but not great, and while it won’t be winning any game of the year awards any time soon, it’s a fun experience while it lasts. Although each playthrough will only take you a few hours, with the huge amount of replayability, it’s definitely worth its 1200MSP price tag, and is a charming, fun, and unique idea that everyone should experience at least once. While I believe the Cave may have a case of marmite syndrome in that you’ll either love it or hate it, hopefully for most it won’t be the latter.