I sit, staring at the computer screen. My current characters, the Twins stand, staring back with their glowing undead eyes. The next part of the puzzle sitting just to the left of them.
As I was playing through, I was trying to pinpoint what it is I like about The Cave. Really like. It’s a puzzle game, which I love. It’s from Double Fine Productions and from the same brains that Monkey Island came from. It’s got a great and interesting story line. Gorgeous artwork. It’s got (plenty of) dark humor – which all and all is not quite as terrifying as it may sound.
But those reasons aside, I really like this game for some other reason, one I couldn’t fully pinpoint at first. They had my attention and it was something…different. On the surface this is a seemingly innocent puzzle platformer. You get to choose from 7 characters, each with their own story line and reason for visiting “The Cave.” Each has their own reason to get to the end be it fame, glory, money, love – what have you.
Ok, that’s been done before in games.
Sometimes some of the non-essential characters have to die so that you’re able to progress in the game.
Alright, it’s not like I would have been able to get through Uncharted without shooting down some enemies.
But this game is different. That’s when it dawned on me. You’re not shooting down the “enemies”.
As these story lines progress you discover the reason for why these characters are doing what they’re doing, their motives and their actions aren’t exactly noble in any case. More so, this game isn’t really about morality choices. You have to make “bad” choices often to progress. And that’s when it hit me.
This game isn’t really about morality choices. You’re just…bad.
You’re not fighting off villains in this game. You are the villain. Nothing and no one will stop you from achieving your goal. And this time there is no hero to get in your way. Only a Vincent Price-esk narrator “scolding” you yet subtly egging you on with his deep and sinister laugh.
With that they had me. I took my three characters and I descended into the depths of the cave, intrigued enough to find out what happens in a world where seemingly the villain wins. Now, I won’t give away the ending but it’s well worth seeing it through to the end.
The game play is my kind of game. Of the seven characters, you choose three. Each has their own ability that will help you through the game (for example, I first choose the Adventurer who can grapple, the Time Traveler who can beam herself through obstacles, and the Scientist who can hack computers).
You use their skills as you play co-op with yourself to make it through each level of the cave. One thing I would have liked more however, is I would have liked to use my “abilities” more. I found that in most level I maybe used the ability of a character once or twice – being able to solve most puzzles without them.
Each character gets their own level which is great and keeps the cave interesting as you search through it’s hidden corners and dark secrets. But if you check out this great review by Polygon on the game, they also make an excellent point about that. With seven characters and having to play three at a team means that you’ll be playing a couple of the characters’ levels over again to discover the other stories.
In addition to that where as I’m OK with having to travel back and forth to suss out a puzzle (I’ve been told I’d make an excellent WOW player), if you find that tedious, keep in mind that may be one aspect of the game that’s a little daunting. The advantage is you’re playing three main characters, and if you need something on the other side of the level you’re on, you may be able to toggle to a character that is closer, as opposed to running all the way back.
But for me, when you get that “Ah-Ha” moment of finally figuring out a puzzle, all that drains away. I trudge my characters on with a new found sense of purpose (and a slight dose of fear at what they want to accomplish).
So if you love villains, puzzles, and a good story about the descent into darkness (or even if you were just fans of Monkey Island and want to see what this is all about) make sure to check it out here.