The Cave review

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It’s time to go spelunking with Ron Gilbert.

So, that name above; Ron Gilbert; He’s famous you know. Maybe not in the “oh my God, I just created fire” sort of famous, but in the game world he is pretty well thought of. So there. And I like him, even though I’ve never met him. He created some great games back when computers were the size of buses, but without the wheels, or conductor… Hmmm, it seems I’m waffling a bit. Well, get used to it if you want to enter… The Next Paragraph!

Welcome to The Cave; a subterranean world of incongruities, time travelling, weirdness and downright barbarism. It’s a place where eight people are counted as seven and a large, sarcastic, hollowed-out place in the ground (a cave to me and you) has serious trouble dating. Personally I think it’s all the cadavers littering the place – jolly messy and inconvenient for the visitors don’t you know and doesn’t bode well for your chances of survival.

Confused yet? Well, enjoy that feeling because when you choose three from seven available characters at the start (a set of twins counts as one so at least I was right about there being eight) you will help them traverse the cavernous depths of The Cave; a place that reflects their souls by rearranging itself to fit with the wishes of their darkest desires. Nothing rude I’m afraid, just a quick spelunk here and there.

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Deeper and down.

At its heart The Cave is an old school side-on platform game using basic physics based puzzles. Many of these can only be completed with the help of another character, and some levels have large sections only accessible by one of your group with a certain unique skill. The Adventurer has an Indiana Jones style whip with which to cross pits, (usually chock full of sharpened sticks) whereas the Time Traveller can teleport a few feet in front of herself allowing her to bypass many obstacles blocking the way forward.

As with most games of this ilk, some skills are used much more than others but all characters have one level that will use them at some point, and you will have to play through the game at least three times to see everything. The problems facing our ‘heroes’ range from the simple dragging of boxes or flipping switches to slightly more obtuse conundrums. Nothing is too taxing, but since you get next to no help with how things work in the beginning you might have a few moments of frustration before you realise how the game functions.

For instance; pulling a switch and changing to another character will cause the first character to let go of the switch, but if you keep hold of the button you pressed to flip the switch whilst changing character they will keep it in the position you want. A simple frustration that once mastered helps with a large portion of puzzles throughout your adventures. Remembering which skill to use – and where – isn’t too hard but there is always a dilemma that stumps you until you get that Eureka moment.

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The dark side of the soul.

As you navigate deeper into The Cave you will witness strange creatures and interact with oddball characters such as the cardboard cut-out carnival folk; the caveman who is trying to invent the wheel, or a dead clown found in a dark recess whose nose you can honk. Okay, there’s not much interaction with the last one but the nose honking made me smile.

And that’s where I tell you about the best part of the game. It’s genuinely funny. Maybe not laugh out loud funny, but it’s wacky, silly fun and always laced with a darkness that tickles me black. It shows that there are always consequences to your actions (which The Cave reminds you of often) but still revels in acts of wanton destruction brilliantly narrated by the voice of The Cave with a wonderfully twisted, dry sense of humour.

It’s hard to tell you my favourite parts without spoiling it so I won’t. I’ll just get down to the technical parts of the review. Graphically the game is wonderfully stylised but I do feel a little more colour could’ve worked wonders as it did with Trine. Visually, at times things felt a little drab even if it was nicely designed. There were exceptions of course (like my favourite; the time travelling level). Sound wise everything sounded great and the voice cast did an admiral job of bringing the strange tale to life.

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Is it good to be bad?

In the end it all boils down to is The Cave worth a purchase? Well, its skewed take on morality whilst trying to teach the main characters a lesson (and hopefully the player at the same time) is well told and perversely funny. It’s not a perfect game, or the longest, and like others holds the odd frustration, but I played through it four times before writing this review and if that doesn’t tell you something then nothing will.

Game details

Game title: The Cave
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Available for: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC, Mac, Linux
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: SEGA
Strengths: Solid sound and puzzles and some great humour.
Weaknesses: Visually it could be more colourful and the controls are sometimes a little unresponsive.
Score: 8 out of 10

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