Review: The Cave (PSN)
Title: The Cave
Format: PlayStation Network Download (985 MB)
Release Date: January 23, 2012
Developer: Double Fine Productions
ESRB Rating: T
The Cave is also available on PC, Xbox Live, and Wii U eShop. The PSN version was used for this review.
The Cave is a puzzle game at its core with some very light platforming elements that do not necessarily require the jumping skills or spatial management techniques that you would expect from something like Rayman Origins. Creator Ron Gilbert, mastermind behind Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, has been quoted in a few interviews mentioning that he “wanted to make moving around the world fun” and that is a proven success.
The humor in The Cave is prevalent right from the beginning as the cave itself begins to narrate the story, telling the player that being a cave “makes dating hell”. You are asked to choose 3 of 7 characters to begin your journey; my favorites were the Monk, the Knight, and the Hillbilly. You maneuver your 3 choices to a collapsing bridge with little to no tutorial or instruction and the puzzles begin.
There really isn’t any dying in The Cave but when one of your characters does get eaten by a dragon or falls in a spiked pit, you will respawn close by. Expect a quirky anecdote from your cave narrator as he will tell you early on that he cannot afford the high cost of insurance for deaths that happen within his walls. You switch between your characters with the D-pad and their location management can play a big part in solving puzzles to advance.
The puzzles in The Cave are creative, challenging, and rewarding when they are figured out. Many sections of the game are multi-tiered and you must sometimes excavate large areas before seeing the big picture and achieving that aha moment. In some instances, you might have to leave one character holding a lever that is a good distance away from your other two characters. Other times, you can expect to be in need of an item that is closer to the Monk while you are controlling the Knight. That character placement gives the player great control in areas that may seem overwhelming at first.
Aside from moving, jumping, and holding one item at a time, the simple game mechanics are complimented by the unique special ability that each character has. The Knight, for example, can become invincible while standing still. This power can be used to fall from high distances without dying, giving him access to areas of the cave that other characters cannot reach. Many sections of the game are universal, meaning that you will experience them regardless of which characters you choose. Other parts, however, are character specific and will reveal more of that respective character’s backstory.
The cartoony visual style of The Cave suits the humor, gameplay, and overall feel of the game perfectly. There is variety in the backgrounds with colorful, neutral, and even outdoor areas to explore. You can go from the depths of dark caverns to the surface of a sunny island with seamless integration. Areas that replicate interiors like the Knight’s castle or the Monk’s temple are very well done and fit into the backdrops in such a way that does not take you out of the game.
The characters themselves are designed to exaggerate the stereotypes associated with said character so that there is clear distinction and more humor. The Time Traveler is going to have that future-looking outfit with those obscure, not-yet-invented accessories while the Scientist has to be an uber-nerd. The character models pale in comparison to the cave itself in scale and physicality, giving off that ominous feeling of imminent failure. There were a few graphical glitches worth noting but no game breaking experiences in any of my playthroughs.
The voice of the cave itself is as sultry as it is appealing. He tells his dry jokes at the perfect times and they aren’t corny or too childish. The game plays and feels like it should have been rated E 10+ and I’m sure that the cave’s raunchy dialogue is responsible for the T rating this game officially received.
The sound effects are great and well placed. The soundtrack is just eerie enough to compliment that occasional feeling of being stuck. The humorous and cartoony style is maintained throughout.
A couch co-op mode has been included in which up to 3 players can play through the campaign. If the communication and/or cooperation is lacking in the group, there may be some confusion or struggle as the group progresses. Players are not locked to a character and the screen is not split even when the avatars are very far from each other. When everyone is on the same page however, the multiplayer experience is unmatched, providing hours of entertainment as possible solutions are proposed, disproved, and ultimately realized.
There is no online mode in The Cave.
Platforms like the PSN are brought to life by games like The Cave. An experience that is completely worth the $14.99 may not have reached a wide enough audience without such outlets. If you’re in the mood to play something different, something fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously then The Cave is for you. Enjoy it by yourself or download it and save it for when a couple of friends come over. It quickly becomes apparent that this game came from a mind that produced its best work during the golden age of gaming. The Cave is fun, creative, imaginative, quirky, hilarious, and an all around good time.