Game Review: ‘The Cave’ (First Impression)
Well back in the bronze era of video game history there was a bunch of chaps working at Lucasfilm (later Lucasarts) who made a name for the company creating smart, funny and fondly remembered adventures. These included the first two Monkey Island games, Sam and Max Hit the Road, The Dig, Full Throttle, Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle. The one day Lucasarts turned around and decided that their legacy should be in broken, cheap and disappointing Star Wars games and not good quality. The fun people were turned out and have had trouble finding their way since. Sometimes they had a great idea that couldn’t get funding, like The Cave.
Enter the fans and Kickstarter. Within days the budget for the game was several million dollars. And as of this morning we can play it. So let’s play.
We begin with a voice over narration and the very first line is bloody funny. The second line is even funnier. Not the usual gaming funny where the characters have funny names or make a passing reference to Star Wars, but genuinely funny. I’ll let you hear it for yourself. Then we get a bunch of seven characters from which we can chose three. Let’s see what we have…
A knight with the ability to become invincible, a hillbilly who can belch air bubbles for underwater levels, a time-traveler who can phase through walls, a scientist who can hack computers, an adventurer who can use a grappling hook, a HOLY FUCK WHAT IS THAT! A pair of evil looking twins with glowing eyes! That’s…original. They can detach their spirits to pull levers and the like. Finally there is a monk who can levitate objects. Each of the seven have their own dark tale to be revealed throughout the game. For the first play through we’ve chosen the adventure (whose costume is a clear nod to Psychonauts), the time-traveler and the scary twins.
Once you have your three characters you send them down in to the titular cave, a mysterious place where each character would be confronted by their past. Plenty of variation in the environments are promised with a unique setting for each character to puzzle their way through. We found that the Adventurer area (below) was all about switches and levers, the Twins had puzzles involving locked doors and items and the Time Traveler has a time travel puzzle to solve (obviously).
Game-play wise things are straight forward. You have a button to jump, one to pick up and use object and one for abilities. Mouse control is optional but the keyboard does suffice. It’s a even blend of platforming and puzzle solving. The platforming functions only has a means to navigate the level whilst the puzzles will require more focus. It’s an easy to play game and fans of the groups earlier work will feel at home with the puzzles, some of which are pretty clever.
The animation is slick but the selling point in terms of the visuals is the style. There’s a smattering of Tim Burton here and there but it’s more like Day of the Tentacle. Rich, bold colors make up the landscape. Even when you transition from an ancient pyramid to a gothic mansion it all fits seamlessly together. As you move from area of the mysterious cave to the next you interact with each of your characters back story, and given the line-up to chose from there’s much intrigue afoot.
A major flaw that reared much to early in the game is the amount of backtracking required. One example is a puzzle in which you have to return three mine-carts to an angry miner. To get to each cart you need a stick of dynamite which means heading down to the furthest point of the area multiple times to complete the exact same sequence of actions to get one. Although each character has their own story to work through the idea of doing these areas again puts one of multiple play throughs. Might be a damper on the long term prospects.
If you want a game with a sense of humor, intrigue and mild puzzles this will more than suffice. If you want a game that harkens back to the olden days without playing yet another bloody 8-bit zombie game then it is a must play. Check it out.