I was lucky enough to obtain a free steam key for The Cave last week, the newest platform adventure game from the minds of Ron Gilbert and Double Fine productions, both of whom are responsible for some of the most enjoyable adventure games I have ever played. Please see my video review below:
Though there’s been an obvious resurgence for the adventure game genre recently, it’s become obvious that it may not ever be what it was in the early 80s to mid 90s. Sure, there are still a few adventure games that come out every once in a while that receive some critical acclaim, but compared to the immense success the genre had fifteen to twenty years ago, it seems like that particular style of gaming has fallen off the radar. I can’t say with conviction who or what was to blame for the sudden disinterest in adventure games. It could be a number of factors. I always felt as though adventure games were genderless, meaning I feel like an equal number of males and females were playing adventure games on their computers; and I also feel that they were more appealing to adults. Before the rise of console gaming you didn’t see many children fussing around on a computer (unless that child was me, but I was a freak and don’t count.) When the Nintendo Entertainment System became more popular, more of a demographic was apparent. It included children. Children who wanted to shoot things, bop some goombas on the head, fight each other using burly, muscular characters, and overall, have a gaming experience that required less thought. Not that that is a bad thing, I love my consoles; but I feel that they did contribute to the reason as to why adventure games became less popular. And of course, tech was continually changing, and though adventure games attempted to keep up, they were eventually white-washed by shooters like Doom, and gore-fests like Mortal Kombat.
If you’re anything like me, then you never gave up on the adventure game. They are one of the most alluring types of game play in my opinion. Just having the term “adventure” before “game” gives it a whimsical feeling. When I sit down to play an adventure game, I am there for the journey. I’m not necessarily playing to win, I’m playing to go forward in a grand adventure and be charmed by interesting characters and engrossing stories.
The Cave is an interesting style of adventure game. It’s not an adventure game in the traditional sense one may be thinking of. It does not have inventory style puzzles in the way that you can take everything that’s not nailed down and shove it in your pants. There is limited dialogue, and it is a little bit heavier on platforming aspects. Some of the reviews I’ve read that touch on the lack of dialogue and character development, I find a bit harsh. As I touched on in my video review, it draws many parallels to Maniac Mansion, but the same elements that Maniac Mansion has and people seem to love, are the same things people are critical about. Maniac Mansion’s characters, for example, never needed a back story or any further character development. It’s just a damned fun game. I found some of those same elements in The Cave, and the similarities really tugged on my nostalgic heart strings.
Because of the names attached to who created The Cave, it’s easy to expect another adventure game like Monkey Island or Grim Fandango, and even though I’d love more games just like those, I respect the differences in The Cave. It’s very platform heavy, which may put off those seasoned gamers who wanted more dialogue interactions and puzzles that involve you clicking every inventory item on each other until you solve a puzzle. I dove into this game not really knowing what to expect. For the most part, it was an enjoyable experience.
The platform elements can become tedious, but it’s difficult for me to tell if I am being overly critical with that statement because I *AM* such a huge adventure game nut. Generally, I don’t like platforming mixed with my adventure games, but because of the co-op option, the platform experience became something I enjoyed. I’m not particularly used to playing an adventure game with a friend, because in old adventure games, you would be in control of one character for the duration. So what is your friend supposed to do? Sit there as you try to figure out how to unlock a door for hours on end? This is one of the first adventure games that I actually had an enjoyable social experience with. The co-op option worked particularly well with me playing on a keyboard with my partner controlling the characters with the xbox controller.
There isn’t one dominant story to this game; rather, there are levels that pertain to the characters you choose to play. The more you play this game, the more you realize how contrasting the humor can be. The Cave itself, which is personified and acts as an omniscient being who can seemingly predict what happens to your characters, can either come across as goofy or dark in tone. The darker the humor that shows up in the game, the more I enjoyed the silliness from some of the minor characters scattered throughout.
I really enjoyed the graphics, and I felt the controls were easy to use. If I truly had to nitpick about something in greater detail, it would be the fact that I did yearn for even more character interaction. But that’s just the kind of gamer I am. I like talking to people. I like humorous characters and clever dialogue. The Cave does have some silly little character moments, and I liked them, and wished for more of them. However, because the game was a little heavier on platforming, I can see why character interaction was less frequent.
As mentioned in my video review, The Cave is very reasonably priced. It’s not a very long game, and has some replay value as you can choose an entirely different party to play the game with. I think I can understand someone not appreciating this game if it were, say, 60 dollars, like the price of a new XBOX game. However, it is very inexpensive for the time you will likely put into the game, so I highly recommend giving it a run. I cannot stress enough how much fun the co-op experience was for me; so buy the game, find a friend, and have fun. Sometimes, the most enjoyable parts of the game are seemingly the most simple. While others criticize the laborious platforming and backtracking, my friend and I were busy splashing in puddles, finding fun ways to kill our characters, and attempting to solve puzzles in odd ways. I did wonder if the co-op experience could have been enhanced with a split screen design, allowing other players to run ahead and explore different areas at the same time; however, when given more thought, I realized how much that would piss me off. Just speaking from personal experience, I never liked it when my co-op partner ran ahead, so I do like the fact that your partner needs to stay around the same area. It FORCES you to work together.
In my personal opinion, I thought The Cave was well designed, and I enjoyed it. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you have the time, and want to be reminded of past adventure games and have a few chuckles, then give it a try. The game is available on multiple platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, the Wii U, the Playstation 3, and the Xbox 360, so I am sure you will have no problems finding what works the best for you.