Eurogamer Expo 2012: The Cave hands-on
To give you a flavour of The Cave’s tone, I need only tell you that when my stupidly floppy, straw stalk chewin’ Hillbilly character died from a nasty fall into a spike pit, the self-narrating sultry-voiced Cave – that’s right, it talks – brought him back to life in a puff of smoke, complaining of how his insurance rates would sky rocket if any more tourists died in him, and how his business, the cave gift shop, isn’t doing well enough to pay for itself in these tough economic times.
For anyone who’s ever played a classic Ron Gilbert adventure title, The Cave is a trip down memory lane, one plastered with the kind of off-kilter humor that defined The Secret of Monkey Island and Manic Mansion. It’s also something of a diversification from the classic point ‘n’ click adventures that Gilbert made his name with, taking a foray into 2D platforming territory. Make no mistake though; this is no Super Meat Boy when it comes to reflex challenges, more a light MetroidVania with a heavy focus on adventure game puzzle elements.
You begin at a campfire outside the cave’s entrance and choose 3 out of 7 intrepid adventurers’ to take your spelunking journey. They’ve all been summoned here for an unknown purpose, one that only promises to be revealed as they progress deeper into the cave.
I took a dumpy female scientist, some ghostly young twins (Who move, act and count as one character) and the aforementioned swanking hillbilly. The first thing that happened was an Alice in Wonderland style tumble, not down a rabbit hole, but a well shaft, falling past all manner of oddities – umbrella’s, bones and dinner parties all caught my gaze on the way down.
Once inside the depths of the cave, you can only control one character at a time, and switching between each is assigned to the bumper buttons. The Cave’s puzzles are centered on having your team members in different places at the same time and switching between them rapidly, interacting with the environment.
One such puzzle involved a giant path blocking crystal-shelled frog monster, which leaped out of his hiding spot every time I rang a nearby bell. The puzzle required me to not only ring the bell but get a sausage from a vending machine to draw him further out in order to remove him with a giant claw. The trouble was that the vending machine was out of power due to the lack of a fuse. There was a fuse up by the lever, but it was electrified because of dripping water. This meant that I had to get a bucket from a nearby well to stop the water before taking the fuse, which I then also had to bring back after using the vending machine.
It was a long, protracted logic challenge, but one that confused and delighted in equal measure, forming most of the 15 minute demo as I tested each and every logical option I could conceive to no avail. My one problem was that its internal logic was a little confusing, but it was actually something of a pleasure to struggle with for a while and think up all manner of potentially ridiculous solutions, each of which could have made perfect sense in the slightly warped mind of Ron Gilbert.
The promise of local multiplayer is an exciting prospect as solving Gilbert’s puzzles could potentially take a few extra minds considering how delightfully abstract they are. The Cave is all about that Double Fine style of kitsch, one where every character is a stereotype exaggerated to comic levels, giant fiery frogs crave vending machine hot dogs and a talking cave moans about insurance rates.