E3 2012 Preview: The Cave

June 12, 2012

In amongst all of the new-school games offered up at E3, The Cave really stood out for us. Developed by Double Fine Productions under Ron Gilbert, The Cave is an adventure game with a sprinkling of some platforming elements. We at Rocket Chainsaw were able to venture forth into the eponymous landmark, as far as the demo would allow us. Here’s what we found during out bout of virtual spelunking.

The Cave begins with a piece of narration as voiced by none other than…well, the Cave itself! It’s a little bit odd at first but somehow it manages to work over time. The Cave tells of its own history, informing us that it’s a place that people have been going for millenia in order to pursue their heart’s desire. During this opening, we’re shown a monk who seeks enlightenment, a hillbilly who is looking for love and a scientist that wishes to discover a technological breakthrough. Out of the seven characters shown, you are able to select three for your party to get involved in some 2D platforming action. You’re able to switch between each of the tree characters as you play, which proves to be a vital skill. Amongst other things, you can pick up objects and use them to solve puzzles. In turn, you’ll also need your three selected characters to work co-operatively, in order to explore all that the Cave has to offer. Even if your teamwork doesn’t go so well and you to blunder, however, there isn’t really a penalty for death – you simply respawn a little bit earlier in the section that you were exploring.

Though it may look it on the surface, it’s probably not entirely accurate to class The Cave as a platform game – rather, it’s an adventure game which makes use of some light platforming elements, and requires a bit of thinking to progress. In one puzzle we had to get past, a monster was blocking our path. One of our player characters had to ring a bell in order to attract the monster, while another had to bait the monster towards a pit of spikes. While all of this was going on, our third character was standing by a lever which activated a claw device to pick up the monster and restrain it.

Each of the characters you play has possesses their own special ability that sets them apart from the rest of your spelunking squad. For example, our knight had a guardian angel ability, allowing him to survive long falls as well as other types of damage that would give our other characters a hiding. The knight’s guardian ability also manifested itself in other ways. One section sees the knight use its guardian to survive a dragon’s fiery breath, in order to provide a distraction so another character can run past it to retrieve a key being guarded. All of the actions and abilities were surprisingly accompanied by little in the way of a user interface, which in some ways was welcoming as it allowed us to soak up the scenery of each section.

The quest above that we were playing through with the knight was centred on finding a treasure for a princess, which just happened to be in the possession of a dragon. Upon returning to the princess with the booty, we unfortunately unleashed the dragon which promptly ate her. It wasn’t for nothing however, as the scaly beast spat out the amulet that we needed in order to continue through the game.

The Cave certainly looks to be so slightly different from normal adventure and platforming fare, as it’s both but neither at the same time. If we did have to make a call, however, we would say that it should mostly be seen as an adventure game. As if to underscore that point, a new grog machine can be found in the cave, a visual tip of the hat to the Monkey Island adventure series.