Game Pile: The Cave

Most of these reviews are less than useless. I’m never giving anyone an impression of a game that they haven’t already got an opinion on, though I do know a few of you very kindly have used my opinion as a source on whether or not a game is worth purchasing when it’s cheap. The type of game that fits these reviews best are games that start cheap, and you’re probably considering whether or not you want to spend some money on them.

Great news – I’m reviewing The Cave.

The Cave is a videogame created by Double Fine Productions, who also made Psychonauts, and whose luminaries are responsible for Sam and Max, Day of the Tentacle, and Full Throttle, which remain three of the best examples of their genre ever made (I’ll get to The Walking Dead one day). It uses 3d models in a 2-dimensional plane, and your characters can jump several times higher than their bodies, so levels are exceptionally large. You select three characters from a potential lot of seven, and collect various clickable objects that aren’t too particularly out of your way to reveal their story in sequential pictures. Puzzles are solved by bringing an item to interact with some thing designed to interact with it.

The entire puzzle design is Ikea-style operations. You put tab A in slot B, which yields tab C that can go into slot D, in a long sequence. There are a few locations where you can choose to solve tab-slot pile A-D, E-H and I-L in whatever order you like, but as the game continues, it becomes more linear and more narrow.

The Cave is also repetitive – you have to do numerous tasks multiple times, there’s some puzzles that are backtrack-a-paloozas, and if you want to see all the endings for all the characters, you have to play through the game at least six full times, with six of the levels being the same. Three seems to be the golden number for this game, with many puzzles requiring you to find three things, pull three levers, manipulate three barrels, and even, try to do things three times.

It may sound like there isn’t much to talk about in this game, which is strange because I picked it up. I bought it. I had to have had some reason to try out this game that, so far, sounds like a bowl of oragami weetbix. What did it? What made me finish it, even?

Well, first, the game does have charm. While the individual characters are fairly boring and uncomplicated, with a simple, binary ‘moral choice’ system that strips them of all variance until you reach that choice, The Cave is saved as an experience by its charming narrator – the titular cave itself. The cave has a funny tone of voice, nudges the fourth wall from time to time, and generally serves as the glue that keeps this game from falling apart.

I bought The Cave as part of a special, selling it for a quarter of its normal price. That was a good price point for it. I wouldn’t buy the game for twenty bucks, but it’s definitely worth the time at half or a quarter of that.

Buy it if:

  • You love Double Fine’s quirky style.
  • It’s quite cheap.
  • You love puzzle platformers and want a change in pace.

Avoid it if:

  • You hate repetition.
  • You hate repetition.
  • You hate repetition.
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