A journey into The Cave is worth the price of admission
Double Fine Studio’s latest title takes players on a wonderfully amusing and witty adventure through the caverns of what made video games so great back in the day.
In recent years there has been a modest renaissance in the old school side-scrolling video game genre. Today’s modern side-scrollers harken back memories of the original Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog but can now can sport impressive high definition 3D graphics and push the technical specs of the hardware to limits a Nintendo Entertainment System or Sega Genesis could never dream of — all while delivering the usual pomp and circumstance side-scrollers are known and loved for.
Double Fine Studios, the developers behind Psychonauts and the equally eccentric Brutal Legend, managed to capture that same nostalgic blend of magic that made the classic side-scrollers great and put it in their newest side-scrolling platforming-adventure title The Cave.
Much like the games of our past, there isn’t a complex story for players to get wrapped up in with The Cave. The premise is quite simple actually and revolves around a magical talking cave that plays host to a series of labyrinths and puzzles for the players to navigate. And yes folks, this game is about a cave that actually talks to you while you navigate its innards and it’s pretty funny to tell you the truth. Right from the get-go players have the choice between a cast of seven different characters, each with their own unique special abilities. The motley crew of individuals all have been drawn to the cave to “learn something about themselves and who they might become.”
Players have to choose three of the seven characters to round out their adventure party and venture into the cave in a tour-like fashion, all while solving puzzles, outwitting dragons and completing character-specific quest story lines along the way. You can choose to play as the cowardly Knight whose main objective is to obtain the fabled sword Excalibur, the oafish Hillbilly who longs for the reciprocated love of his Dream Gal, or the Time Traveler who seeks to right the wrongs of the past — either way, the combinations of your cave-dwelling “Dream Team” are aplenty.
There were instances in the game where certain characters and their stories panned out to be a lot easier than others, leaving the player completely stumped with little to no help at all in how to progress in the game. Part of The Cave’s charm is that it challenges you to think rather than shoot and kill … which is something most games don’t do anymore.
Probably one of the most unique features in The Cave is that players can swap between taking control of the characters on the fly in order to solve puzzle sequences. One of the most memorable experiences was when you had control of a time machine and were required to alter items in the past and present in order to get desired outcomes in the future — a brilliantly designed portion of the game that I promise not to spoil. Another great feature the game supports is local cooperative multiplayer up to three players, so you and two friends can explore the cave and its witticisms together.
The Cave leaves no stone unturned when it comes to its impressive visuals. Graphically, the game wields beautifully rendered 3D high definition environments that you explore on a 2D plane. The colors are rich and vibrant and the game’s cartoonish art design are very reminiscent of the games of yesteryear that kick-started video gaming’s foray into the mainstream. The only minor flaw worth noting in The Cave is that there were certain instances in the game where the frame rate took a slight dip, but it wasn’t game-breaking or handicapped your gameplay experience.
The Cave offers a healthy amount of replayability. A single playthrough on average will take you about five to six hours to complete … but that’s only with a set of three characters. You will have to play through the game a total of three times just to get the full story for all of the characters — but that’s not all: if you beat the game a second time with each character you get rewarded with that character’s “true” ending.
All in all, I highly recommend playing The Cave with a friend or two because the added gameplay experience alone that is achieved through the cooperative multiplayer is worth the price of admission — and at only $15 The Cave is a steal. The Cave is available for digital download on the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
FINAL SCORE: 9 out of 10