Review: The Cave
Though it might not appear as such from first glance, Double Fine’s latest game, The Cave, is most definitely an adventure game. Sure, the game might play like a slightly wonky platformer, but under that The Cave is a tale about morality and the dangers of getting exactly what you wish for. If only it wasn’t so hard to get to that message.
The crux of the game is the character selection. You get your pick of 3 of the game’s adventurers to take with you into The Cave, and each of those characters has a special power exclusive to them. For example, The Time Traveller? She can Phase through certain objects, which sounds like a fairly useful power to have. Upon making your selection, you venture down into the bowels of the cave, intent on discovering the thing each of these characters desires. You’ll be soaking in the atmosphere even before then though, as the Cave, while not necessarily a chatterbox, has some pretty interesting thing to say. He might not be meddling with the characters directly, but the writing makes him by far the most interesting thing in the game. There’s a fantastic dry wit, and slight underlying menace, to everything he says, and the way he chastises the player for even the simple act of death makes him a joy to listen to throughout the game. The other characters throughout the adventure have some good things to say too, and they’re all brought to life with wonderful voice acting. The Cave is the real star here, and, strangely, it knows it.
The cave’s voice isn’t the only thing that it has going for it, however. The visual design of the world is absolutely wonderful, filled with little hidden details that really make it feel like a fantastic place to explore. From fossils in the rock, to strange buildings off in the background, a lot of work has gone in to making the cave feel like a place worth diving in to. While the game may look great, however, the performance leaves something to be desired. The game has some serious frame rate issues, and at points I encountered some severe screen tearing. It never got so bad as to be detrimental to the game, but the whole experience feels unpolished. In a game designed around exploring an underground system of caves, to have frame rate issues whenever water appears on screen feels something of an oddity.
You’ll notice I haven’t talked much about the game’s puzzles yet. As with all good adventure games, to talk about the puzzles themselves is to spoil the revelation of discovery. The puzzles in The Cave are right out of classic adventure games, but with the added element of some rudimentary platforming and block pushing. If you love the puzzles in other titles, you’ll feel right at home here. The platforming, while basic, does its job well enough to not be a constant nuisance, so when you do miss a jump, it more often feel like your own fault than the game’s. And if you do miss, and fall to your untimely death, then the game puts you right back with a tut from the cave himself. Although he does get bored of doing that after a while.
The Cave isn’t quite Double Fine firing on all cylinders, but it does provide enough entertainment value within its stone walls to get you through its moral tale. While playing through the game multiple times may start to feel like an exercise in repetition thanks to the puzzles that come in between the character specific ones, the ones that are tailored to a character’s strengths are a joy to experience. Especially the Time Traveller’s one, I don’t think I’ve experienced an ‘AHA’ moment in a game like that in quite some time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off spelunking again.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Wonderful voice acting
- Great atmosphere to the cave itself
- Interesting puzzles that make great use of the characters
What I Dislike:
- Graphical issues
- Wonky platforming
- Game structure makes replays sometimes tedious.