The Cave made me ask a few questions about modern adventure games — questions like “What are modern adventure games?”
The answer to that question is “definitely not The Cave.”
At its start, The Cave seemed like a brilliant thing: seven characters, delving into a sentient cave to explore their darkest secrets in its depths. It quickly became an exercise in monotony.
What happened? Micro-management happened, courtesy of a broken inventory system. You control 3 characters at a time, but each character can only carry one item. There is a lot of switching between characters to shuffle items around, and you end up doing a lot of backtracking… or maybe catch-up tracking?
This was tolerable at first, but the amount of time spent managing the three characters and their items quickly eclipsed the amount of time spent actually solving puzzles. I play adventure games to have my mind challenged, but I prefer challenges that don’t revolve around finding the quickest way to trade items back and forth.
The Cave delivers a few moments of classic adventure gaming, but they don’t last long and they don’t provide very challenging puzzles. Mostly, they just give you a glimpse of what The Cave could have been.
The Cave also has problems with its platforming elements. The Cave won’t let you die, so negotiating platform-based challenges has no sense of danger and requires no skill. The hybrid just doesn’t take, and it starts to feel pointless quickly.
I wish I could stop listing this game’s faults, but I also had a problem with its puzzles. The ones that weren’t character specific provided challenges in a few instances, but in other cases they were downright broken.
Seriously, I left one of my characters in a strange location, and it changed the how the entire puzzle worked. What? It’s like they ran out of time to craft an actual solution and had to throw something together to let you pass — and instead of giving you clues to figure it out, they just expected you to Google it.
After your first playthrough, you are given the option to pick three more adventurers to take into The Cave. I sat staring at the start screen and its seven potential stories for quite some time. And you know what? I didn’t want to choose any of them.
That was a painful revelation. I have a deep respect for Ron Gilbert, and I tried to talk myself into thinking that The Cave was good. But no matter how hard I tried, it just never popped for me. There is some witty writing here that is undermined by mediocre play mechanics and middling puzzle designs.
The most engaging part of The Cave lies in imagining what it could have been. The idea was great, but would have worked better with Day of the Tentacle-style mechanics.
Regrettably, The Cave is not an adventure you should take.
Was your time in The Cave more favorable than mine? Leave a comment below, or hit me up on twitter and tell me about it. Don’t forget to join the Did Not Finish Facebook page. Also, feel free to Email me. If you are on Raptr look me up.