Welcome to the Cave, the newest game by acclaimed studio Double Fine. This odd platforming game is unique for a number of reasons. Not least of which is that it is a multi-character platforming game. Yes, multi-character, not multiplayer, when was the last time we had a platforming game that lets you control three separate characters and have need to use them all to solve the puzzles put forth? Wasn’t the last Three Vikings game released somewhere around 15 years ago? Needless to say The Cave is in by no means a crowded market, which definitely works to its favor. Like so many other factors that make The Cave a good platformer.
Probably the biggest draw has to be the gameplay. This game is a 2D puzzle platformer that expects you to come up with solutions to all the puzzles. Now these puzzles are not a walk in the park, and will require some creative thinking on the part of the player. Seriously, these puzzles are difficult, and while I do not foresee any broken screens thanks to chucked controllers, there will be parts will the player will just be plain stumped. Although this is somewhat alleviated by the cave, which acts as narrator for your adventure and will occasionally provide offhand hints as to what you have to do.
You see, the Cave is sentient, and is really the main driving force of the story. This being talks to your characters constantly, giving you a steady stream of amusing information sometimes laced with hints related to your current predicament. Speaking of the characters, the game doesn’t saddle you with three characters right off the bat. Instead you can choose between 7 available characters, 3 of which will soon find them trapped in the cave. You have a knight, hillbilly, time traveler, adventurer, creepy twins, monk, and scientist to choose from. Each of these characters is a complete stereotype and has a reason for wanting to delve into the Cave. Thing is you can progress their story only when you play as that character. While you will be able to unlock the story for 3 characters in one play through, to figure out everyone else’s your going to need to play it again. Thankfully it isn’t such a bad thing, as the characters can combine into a high amount of different parties. Each party allowed a unique set of skills that can be combined to overcome the same challenges in different ways.
Every Character also has access to a unique ability. Invincibility, teleportation, underwater breathing, psychic monk stuff, phasing, adventurer whip antics, and SCIENCE!, are what you have to work with mechanics wise. While all the puzzles can be solved without the help of these powers, creative use can be used to circumvent the challenges presented. Have to get past a lever puzzle, with a lever behind a door that will only open from a lever on the other side of the map? Save yourself the time and effort by just phasing or teleporting through to get on with the adventure.
In the technical department, this game gets some good marks. The sound meshes well with the game and give the game an eerie tone befitting a dungeon adventure. The Cave’s voice is also very well done, which definitely could have been an issue since you will be stuck with it for the entire game. Moving on, the graphics are rounded and soft to look at, all together pleasing to the eye. The style fits the game handily, which caters to a more whimsical nature while still having enough dark elements to hold the interest. This is reflected by the occasional hard edge in the game, mostly along some of the more dangerous puzzles that grace the cave.
The story is the weakest part of the game, which is odd when you can look at some of Double Fine’s other works and sees how bursting with story they are. It is a very much a game with a focus on gameplay, but is somewhat held back by the controls which will take a short bit to get used to. Until then, expect a little trouble with the harder jumps in the game.
Even with these quirks, The Cave is a good game. The gameplay and puzzles are solid and challenging, and encourage a fair bit of ingenuity. While the story isn’t much, the Cave’s personality is pretty fun in the background. All in all, I am glad to have found a platformer that has really gotten me excited to jump into the genre again.