Game Review of The Cave
The Cave from Double Fine Productions and legendary Monkey Island developer Ron Gilbert is a light-hearted dark comedy adventure on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PC. This review is based on the PC version. You play as three of seven different characters who are searching for adventure in a cave that narrates as you progress. Yes, The Cave talks and no, it’s never explained. You choose from an Adventurer, Scientist, Knight, Monk, Hillbilly, Time Traveler and a set of Twins. Each character has their own back story and special abilities that you use with your other chosen characters to complete puzzles.
The puzzles consists of various tasks such as collecting gift shop trinkets guarded by a monster, stealing gold from a dragon, and retrieving mine carts for a miner. None of the puzzles particularly go towards a central plot as there isn’t one but three of the puzzles are specific to each of your three characters’ back story. These tend to be the most enjoyable with my personal favorite being the Twins’ house that you explore with various objects to interact with.
However, overall the game play is rather bland. Your tasks are never that interesting and only with a few well design puzzles do you get that enjoyment that comes from figuring out your objectives. This isn’t due to technical problems however. Controlling your characters works fine and switching between them works well. The platforming is not Mario precise but works just fine and is rarely an issue. There’s also cave paintings scattered around the levels for you to find. Still, the game just meanders on without doing anything technically wrong. The experience is just often mediocre.
However, this comes to the game’s biggest fault: there’s not much of it. There are a total of eight puzzles in one playthrough and none of them are particularly long. With no overlying story other than your characters looking for objects in the cave, there’s no push to entice you to continue playing. There’s no character development beyond their back story of which their individual puzzles just reproduce. So the flow of the game consists of completing a puzzle and going to the next until all eight are done.
The Cave can be completed in about four to five hours and although you could go through the game again with different adventurers for different individual puzzles, that only applies to the three individual puzzles, meaning the other five will remain the same albeit with slightly different solutions due to your different characters’ abilities. Add in an awful ending that may as well just be a black screen that says “Congratulations” and there’s nothing about the game play entices you to make a return visit to The Cave.
Presentation-wise, The Cave is also a mixed bag. Character models are charming, cartoon-style designs and reminiscent of previous Double Fine titles such as Psychonauts. Technically, the graphics look good with no issues. However, the environments are uninspired. Despite the narrator’s attempts to make the cave sound magical and fantastical, it’s basically just a cave with stuff in it. Granted, the stuff consists of a castle, a multi-story house, and an island (somehow) but it sounds better than it ends up looking. Menus are rather bare bones and minimalistic as well.
In the audio department, the results are also mixed. The voice-over work is fairly well done and the narrator has its funny moments. This is not a game that takes itself too seriously. However, none of the characters are particularly memorable and while you may enjoy some of them, you’ll forget them not long after you’ve completed the game. There’s almost no music as the developers went more for an ambient soundtrack. What little music is in the game is fine but it serves as just background noise.
The Cave is a title that feels unrealized. With its simplistic game play and not much else driving it forward, The Cave feels a bit too minimalistic for its own good. However, its funny moments and appealing art style and admittedly functional mechanics keep this from being a bad or boring game. Fans of the adventure genre will at least want to check it out while others should pass as this is a game for a specific crowd of people and not much else.