Faulty's scorecard :-1) Essential purchase
2) Recommended purchase3) Recommended purchase during a sale4) Not recommended unless heavily discounted5) Not even recommended for Steam game collectors
The ghosts of spelunkers past
Ron Gilbert is an industry legend. Having grown up with so many of his games as a young child it was partly thanks to Mr. Gilbert (amongst other icons from the era) that my love for the medium blossomed continuing right through to my teens and eventually adulthood. Maniac Mansion was the very first computer game I ever bought with the pocket monies I had earned from doing odd jobs around the family house and I cherished it (although I never completed it nor got very far into it - this being the days of pre-internet where walkthroughs, hints and lets play's were distant and unimaginable realities). Thanks to a little series known as Monkey Island, featuring an intrepid wanna-be pirate hero named Guybrush Threepwood, Gilbert's name would forever be etched into the far recesses of my game-loving mind and by default become a cause for celebration when releasing something new.http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=388072415
The Cave, Ron Gilberts latest adventure creation, carries the DNA of both Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island in its veins. Where as his previous game, the Deathspank series, grew tiresome very quickly thanks to a titular hero that loved the sound of his own dumb voice as he rattled off one bad pun or joke too many, The Cave is ghoulishly funny. The Caves core mechanic should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has played Maniac Mansion. Offering seven characters from which you can choose any three to take on a spelunking adventure will determine the kind of adventure you will experience. Each one of the seven characters: an adventurer, scientist, monk, time-traveler, knight, set of twins and hillbilly have their own grim tale for you to uncover by exploring areas of the cave unique to them. Choose the knight and you will need to get the blessing of marriage from a wayward king's daughters in order to retrieve a sword set in stone or choose the time-traveler and you will encounter a future where you will be required to decode its past in order to unlock its secrets.http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=388071977
Desire and greed are the motivating factors that drives each of these characters forward whether that be the twins plotting to murder their strict no-fun loving Victorian parents or a scientist hellbent on unleashing an atomic bomb into the world despite repeated efforts by npc's and the games narrator that doing so would be catastrophic. Each characters story arc acts as a darkly morbid cautionary tale and for the most part it's funny in a way that elicits giggles even when each character you choose is committing duplicitous acts in order to achieve their wants and needs.
The Cave plays out like a side-scrolling platformer with adventure/puzzle solving elements and sadly this is where the game struggles to make a lasting impression. Controls are fiddly and many of the puzzles you encounter will require excessive backtracking in order to complete. The Cave also overuses a certain mechanic - the dragging of crates and boxes in order to move the game forward - and it's this overuse that ends up making it feel a bit uninspired and generic in the puzzle solving department. While some of the incorporated puzzles are clever and require some out of the box thinking, too many rely on the lazy mechanic of dragging a box or crate to proceed. The Cave does, however, have a novel approach to replay value because finishing the game with your chosen three characters means you have four more characters each with their own individual areas within the cave to explore.http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=388070985
Gilberts black humor does shine through The Cave even when some of the characters selfish tales lack the desired bite that accompanies the darkest of humor. As you progress through The Cave you will need to uncover each characters back-story by unlocking fragments from their past that are hidden deep within the cave itself and it's a pity that each characters tale is uncovered with as little fan-fare as possible. Static background drawings depicting a scene from the life and times of each characters is all you get. It would have been nice to have the narrator, who is the voice of the cave, recount each characters past which would have in turn added more gravitas to their greedy, selfish natures as we witness their slow undoings.
The Cave attempts to teach its players lessons about the nature of greed and letting one's desires run rampant without a care or thought for others but most of this stuff should already be apparent to all except the heartless, psychotic and pathological of you out there and as a throwback it's an interesting mix of old and new. As a game, The Cave is a bit of a mixed bag that never truly settles into its own identity but even Gilbert on a good (although not great) day is better than no Gilbert at all and while not all of The Cave comes together as planned it still offers up enough juicy adventure gaming goodness to warrant a purchase.
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