As you may have read, I recently spent an hour with The Cave. In that first hour I found myself really digging a lot of the aspects of The Cave. I was enjoying the vibrant graphics, well done character animations, and humorous tone. It seemed like I was going to enjoy my trip into the deep darkness of The Cave, which is good since you have seven characters to pick from, but only play as three at one time. That means I could take two trips with new characters and have new character powers to play with.

Since then I’ve spent a few more hours and did finish the game with every character. Did it keep me enthralled all that time?

Gameplay

As I mentioned before The Cave is a 2D platformer with adventure game like puzzles. The puzzles are the real meat of the game, the platformer aspect is mostly simple jumping, nothing overtly tricky or hard to do, though I did always feel it was a bit floaty and off. Luckily you never really “die” so you can fail all you want without penalty. (Dying is not allowed in the cave, but tell that to all the skeletons you’ll find.)

The game has a story section for each character, where as you’d probably guess their powers are used in some form or another. The problem is, those powers really aren’t used that well. Most of the time, you need the character specific power to get into that characters area, and then you don’t need it ever again. It seems like a waste to give each character a power if they aren’t really used for anything worthwhile.

A hot dog is more useful than you think.

A hot dog is more useful than you think.

So while the puzzles are adventure game like, there is a distinct difference that makes them, well, not as great. Inventory. You can have each character hold a single item, and they can also set it down at any time. So you can’t amass an inventory of seemingly worthless junk to pullout for some weird logic puzzle. Which, fine, that’s ok with me. I like when a puzzle makes sense (and the ones in The Cave do) but it also means the inventory is really only good for one area. When I first started out I carried the crowbar with me for a long time thinking I’d need it later. You need it twice. To open The Cave, and to pry a wheel off a well soon after. It’s not a horrible design decision to do what they did here,  as now they don’t have to worry about a player getting stuck because they didn’t carry a random needed item from the beginning of the game. I do appreciate that. But I just feel more could have been done with items. If I don’t need it anymore, it can disappear after it’s final use. Or if I carried it for a really long time, maybe I could open some secret area.

My biggest disappointment came on my second play through. While there is an area for each character, there is also a bunch of repetition. There are three universal areas that you have to traverse each time you play through the game (which is at 3 times if you want to see each characters area like I did, more if you want to see all the endings which I did not.) These areas are good the first time, but offer nothing new after that. I was hoping there were a couple more of these areas and they’d randomly swap them out, so on play through two and three you’d see new things. They didn’t. The third play through you only have 1 new area total, and it’s a slog to get through the rest of that excursion.

Wii U side note: The game only uses the gamepad to switch characters. You have your three characters as basically large buttons on the gamepad screen and tapping them switches you. It works, but it’s not very interesting. You cannot play the game off screen on the gamepad. That would have been nice.

Graphics

I really enjoyed the art style in this game. The graphics are crisp and clean, and the animations are really well done and add a lot to the characters.

I had a few moments of slowdown transitioning sections of the cave, but nothing horrible or game breaking. And while I mentioned in my first hour the Wii U locked up, I never had that happen in the hours after that.

Audio

The dialogue is well done, with the narration of The Cave itself at the forefront. But it also has the same problem as the gameplay, repetitiveness. The Cave and it’s non-player characters have nothing new to say the second time through an area. If they did, maybe it wouldn’t have been as bothersome.

The characters you play as have nothing to say at all the entire time through The Cave. I know they could have had a few lines, and may have been repetitive themselves, but I kind of hoped for something there. It could have made the characters more interesting.

Story (Light Spoilers)

The Cave is a metaphor for diving deep into yourself and finding the darkness inside. Kind of. You are told a story through the character areas and cave paintings for each character about a horrible deed they committed. Thats all well and good, but at the end they get the object of their desire and can leave the cave. That’s the Bad Endings. There’s also Good Endings, which I will admit, missed completely. You can return your object of desire and leave The Cave without, thus seeing the good ending for that character.

I suppose it could have been a puzzle to figure that out, but I didn’t. From what I gathered to return the object you have to try and get rid of the object three times. Then the shopkeeper takes it back and you can leave. I didn’t try to return them, and I didn’t see anything hinting me that I could (ok I’m pretty sure you get the icon to talk to the shopkeeper more, but I didn’t expect him to say anything interesting again.)

Either way the ending is two cave paintings per character showing a good or bad outcome of that characters ordeal. It’s not mind blowing, but it does wrap their story up well enough. I didn’t really feel anything after beating it, and watching a youtube video of the good endings didn’t really change my opinion.

Oh yeah, and to see both the good and bad endings? You’ll have to play through the game with each character twice. So six play throughs. Three was more than enough.

The characters stories are told through "cave paintings" like this one from The Adventurer.

The characters stories are told through “cave paintings” like this one from The Adventurer.

Worth

The Cave retails for $14.99. I got about 8 hours of playtime as I played through with all 7 characters. The problem is some of that playtime was me having to go through areas again. My first play through was a fun time, and clocked about a third of my total playtime. But then having to repeat areas, with the same dialogue, just hurts the experience.

If you’re looking for a game with adventure game elements, it will kind of scratch that itch even with it’s flaws. But I don’t think it’s really worth three play throughs, and definitely not six. So I don’t think it’s worth the full asking price. Maybe during a sale if you’re aware of what it’s problems are and are still interested by the characters, setting, and puzzles. At least try the demo first.

Overall

The Cave is a charming adventure game platformer with character to spare. I can honestly admit on first play it seemed like it was going to be really great. But it’s main problem comes with a second or third play through when you start seeing and hearing the same content over again.

If you love games with puzzles and humor it’s not a bad expedition, but it’s not exactly worth taking due to the flaws.

Game Info

The Cave is a game by Double Fine and SEGA and is available on the Wii U eShop, Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and for PC on Steam. It retails for $14.99.

I played through it on the Wii U, taking around 8 hours of game time for three complete play throughs.  I even carried the postcard through the entire game in one play through thinking it’d do something cool. Apparently on, say the Xbox version, it’d unlock an achievement. On the Wii U it does nothing. There’s not even a line of dialogue to go with it and I was disappointed.

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