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The Cave PS3 Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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The Cave

The Cave

Image © Sega
Double Fine's "The Cave" sounded like a great way to start the year for fans of the PlayStation Network. A puzzle game from the creative minds who made "Brutal Legend," "Stacking," and even can trace their lineage back to the legendary series of games under the moniker of "The Secret of Monkey Island." I grew up playing and loving these kind of puzzle-adventure games, titles that challenged the brain while also presenting a clever story with smart dialogue and funny characters. And that excitement for a modern game that appealed to the puzzle-loving kid inside of me forced me to try and overlook the many notable flaws of this game, a title that has moments that work but also frustrates as often as it thrills.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Double Fine
  • ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
  • Genre: Puzzle-Adventure
  • Pros: Clever Script, Fun Puzzles, Nostalgic Aesthetic
  • Cons: Camera Problems, Depth Issues, Uninspired Design

At the start of "The Cave," players choose three characters to control through the bulk of the game. Each character has a unique skill but are otherwise interchangeable. The special skills will open up different sections of the game, adding depth and replay value to the title, and you'll need to use each of their skills in prominent ways to complete the experience. The Adventurer can swing a rope to get over gaps, the hillbilly can breathe longer underwater, etc. Most of the gameplay involves puzzle solving. How can you use your three characters to get from point A to point B?

Gameplay

The Cave

The Cave

Image © Sega

You enter a cave and try to go further through a land of creatures, traps, levers, and other common puzzle structures. At one point, your Adventurer will be trying to traverse an ancient, underground pyramid and need her two fellow cave-explorers to stand on specific platforms to trigger doors to open for her to progress. The puzzles are shockingly simple for the most part. "The Cave" is one of those games that gives you what you need. Remember titles like "King's Quest" or "Monkey Island" in which the room or a nearby one would always contain what you needed? A locked door meant you had to find a key. A platform you couldn't reach meant you had to search the environment for a ladder. "The Cave" comes from a similar structure. If there's rubble to moved and a flame nearby, you know you just need to find the dynamite.

Sadly, too much of the puzzle design of "The Cave" feels uninspired and obvious. The aforementioned platform traversing section of the pyramid just left me bored. Every time the puzzle design of "The Cave" seems to settle into an entertaining groove, it loses it through repetition and boredom. I found myself going through the motions. Pull the lever, push the box, cliimb the ladder...yawn. Every once in a while, the narrator of this underground adventure will come on and say something witty (such as in a funny bit in which he has difficulty pronouncing "ominous") but those moments are too few and far between. If anything the glimpses of wit in "The Cave" are self-defeating since one wishes they were actually incorporated into the gameplay instead of primarily in the narration.

The mechanics of the game can also be shockingly frustrating. The minutes I spent trying to pick up a carnival ticket but couldn't because it had dropped too close to another action item (hitting a strength meter) will be some of my most annoying of 2013. No one wants to be pushed out of a game by camera issues or poorly-designed action items and "The Cave" did that more than once. It feels unrefined on a gameplay level, almost as if it was rushed out and delivered incomplete.

Graphics & Sound

"The Cave" has a very old-fashioned visual style that should remind players of "Grim Fandango" or "Monkey Island." Most of the character design is stellar. Characters like the dead-eyed twins and the hillbilly are the most memorable element of the game. I found the actual adventurers and the way they were designed and animated the best element of "The Cave" outside of the clever narration. The backgrounds could have been more detailed but it's a purposeful lack of detail to remind one of a former era of gaming. Sound design is what one would expect but the voice work on the part of the narrator is worth praising.

Overall

The Cave

The Cave

Image © Sega
Games like "The Cave" are what got me into gaming in the first place. I hate to date myself but I can trace gaming back to text adventures like "Zork" and then vividly remember when those puzzle worlds were animated in tales like "King's Quest" and "The Secret of Monkey Island." When I heard an old-fashioned puzzle adventure game was coming to the PSN, I downloaded it without hesitation. There are things to like here -- the character design, the concept -- but the execution isn't what it should have been to honor the legacy that led gamers into this cave.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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