The Cave is an interesting exercise that hearkens back to the days of classic adventure from developer Double Fine and director Ron Gilbert (Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island), but yet somehow manages to become something else entirely. It isn’t so much a point-and-click classic so much as it is a clunky platformer. It’s an idealistic clunky platformer, to be sure, but one that still suffers from the same pitfalls nevertheless.
Interestingly enough, there are several characters to choose from, each with their own respective abilities. You can play around and edit a team to best fit your needs, then set off on your journey, which you can tell from the first 10-20 minutes is quite lacking in personality. The cave itself takes center stage – you’re setting off on a journey to fulfill each character’s deepest desires, and along the way you quickly realize this is a game with much less humor and bite than most of the LucasArts classic stable. Sure, there are the incidental snickers that occur from using the wrong item in the wrong situation, but nowhere near the degree of classics like Day of the Tentacle.
The characters themselves hardly speak much, and there’s little in the way of expository content save for actually discovering each character’s ultimate diabolical destiny, and character-specific cave paintings that can be found within. Even so, they’re not exactly engaging. There’s little to keep you going when you don’t really and truly care about the characters hopping down into a cave, anyway.
Puzzle-solving feels clumsy and forced as well, as too often you’re forced to retrace your steps since you can only move one character at a time. So when faced with a specific instance where only one ability can propel you into the next area, you might find yourself moving that character to an area they previously completed back and forth again. And I didn’t dig that.
The talking cave itself, which acts as a sort of narrator, is a pretty interesting concept, however, and the bizarre characters at the very least do pique your interest. Why do they desire what they do? What role does this mammoth cave play in accomplishing al that and why? Puzzling over this is more exciting than the ho-hum plot formula and pedestrian endeavors, which usually involve avoiding pitfalls like spikes and other traps. Luckily mistakes aren’t a big deal, not even if you die. You’re only seconds away from being revived in an area close to where you perished, giving you virtually unlimited restarts. There’s room for error, but it’s just not that exciting to try again when the game isn’t giving you much to work with from the start.
The Cave is a gorgeous and ambitious project, that’s for certain. But not once does it live up to its creators’ pedigreed past, and that’s really disappointing. Fans of Monkey Island, Maniac Manson, and other Ron Gilbert projects will likely be the most disappointed as you never truly connect with these characters or their motives, and platforming isn’t how I would have suggested the game play out. There are droves of better adventure games out there right now, so I’d recommend passing on The Cave for earlier Ron Gilbert work or try out something new.
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