Amongst adventure game aficionados Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert are gods among men. These two helped create and design some of the most beloved adventure games of all time. After years of working apart, Gilbert joined Schafer’s Double Fine Productions in 2010 but the collaboration most expected to materialize from this partnership failed to materialize until now. That game, The Cave, is a return of sorts to the pasts of Gilbert and Schafer, reuniting them with classic adventure games tropes that made them famous.
The Cave is a side-scrolling adventure, puzzle, platformer, filled with all the dark humor and weirdness that one would expect from the creator Maniac Mansion. To start The Cave, players are tasked with choosing three protagonists out of a total of seven. Each of the characters has come to explore the cave for their deepest, darkest desires. These desires manifest themselves in the form of character specific locales in the cave, meaning that multiple playthroughs of the game are required to experience all seven of the storylines.
In addition to the character specific locales, each character has a special ability. These abilities, like the Knight being able to become invincible, will help solve puzzles and/or unlock other areas of the cave. However the game never seems to push the special abilities as far as they could go. In fact this is the biggest issue with the game in general; nothing in it is ever pushed far enough.
The platforming is simplistic, never offering any real challenge and ultimately making traversal through the cave something of a bore. On the flip side of that, the puzzles are also extremely simplistic and only rarely offer anything slightly taxing. All of this means that the game needs to rely on its deep well of charm. The game is never quite laugh out-loud funny but its dark story is often amusing enough to mask the gameplay deficiencies. This would mostly be OK if the game was a more traditional adventure game where the story supersedes the gameplay but that isn’t the case here and sadly the lack of great quality gameplay brings the game down.
Ultimately The Cave is a mixed bag. The dark humor will bring a smile to your face but the mediocre gameplay and simple puzzle design will leave you wishing there was a monkey to use as a wrench.
Review Note: The PC version of The Cave was used for this review, it is also available on the Playstation 3, Wii U and Xbox 360.