The Cave (WiiU) - Review

By Matt Ashbaugh, January 30, 2013
2,671 Views

Hello my readers, this is the Internet talking.

Yes, the Internet. Capital "I" as in, I am the Internet. 

Don't act so surprised. You've seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator, and (to a lesser extent) War Games. You've also played Portal. I know you have because I am the Internet. I know everything you tell me you know. Which means I know a lot of words for breasts, but that's besides the point.

I'm also a big fan of adventure gaming. It's been around for as long as I've been alive and, in many ways, we kind of grew up together. From the text-only days of Zork, to the vector-based graphics of Mystery House, on through the birth of true color graphics the adventure genre led the way in innovation. 

Sure, I've continued to grow in popularity while adventure gaming has fallen from its golden age, but there is hope for my childhood pal. Games like The Walking Dead show there is still a place for interactive fiction. Also, did you know that Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer (two men who have helped create some of the greatest adventure games of all time) joined forces again to make a game? 

Well you do now. Knowing about the game that is. Hmm? What game? Oh yes, names ... your meat brains require names.

It is called The Cave.

the cave gilbert

Pictured: One Cave

It could be described as a blending of the Seven Deadly Sins with the Allegory of the Cave inside of Ron Gilbert's mind until Tim Schafer helped to make it a playable game. It could also be described as an adventure puzzle platformer in which you select three out of seven possible characters to spelunk into a magical self-aware cave that acts as your narrator. 

The seven characters are each diversely designed. From a knight with the ability to become temporarily impervious, to a telekinetic zen monk, to a pair of parricidal (just Google it) twins, they are all quite unique. They have their own personalities, back stories, and motivations which you will uncover as you play. This is greatest strength The Cave has. The deeper you dive into the depths of the magical cave, the further down you journey into the very minds of the characters you are playing as. 

the cave characters

Pictured: (in no particular order) Envy, Lust, Sloth, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, and Pride.

Beyond their personality differences, each character has their own unique special ability. The hillbilly has the odd ability to breathe underwater, allowing him to access areas other characters would drown before they reach. The time traveler can phase through certain barriers, while the adventurer can use her grapple hook to make it across certain deadly pits. These small differences alter how you get through the challenges, making a new journey with a different gang feel familiar yet diverse.

If you've been paying attention (I do know how your minds like to wander), you will remember I said you would take three characters with you. This is because many of the game's puzzles require more than one character to get through. One character may have to hold a lever so another can make it through a gate. One character may have to bait a monster to come closer while another activates a deathtrap. Part of the challenge of the game comes from stretching your brain to consider how to use all the characters at your disposal.

This also can be part of the frustration. One large oversight in the game is that you don't have the option to move all three characters as a group. You could spend a couple of minutes getting one character to a point in which they need a partner, and then you must switch to another character and have them traverse the exact same path you just went through. It is not, how you say, a "deal breaker", but the backtracking may annoy some players. Even the option to call the other two characters to your position would alleviate a large amount of your human frustration. 

the cave knight

Pictured: One being on a boat.

Speaking of frustration, there might be a few puzzles that will cause you to feel it. The puzzles are less "what do I need to solve the puzzle?" and more "how do I get the item I need?". Your goals are always clear, your path is not. Like other puzzle games, the solution will be obvious once you solve it. Unlike, say, Portal, you will not feel smarter for solving it, but instead dumb for not seeing it sooner. 

A big highlight of the game is in the excellent presentation: the sound design, lighting, set pieces, and the cartoonish but vibrant graphics. Each character has its own unique animations when running, jumping, and even standing idle. This game is full of little details and hidden visual gags. This is not surprising given who wrote and designed it, but well worth mentioning. I will again remind you of their unique motivations which you will learn in two ways. First, by locating hidden cave paintings that fill in their back stories and help explain what they are looking for in the cave. Second, by playing through their own unique character challenge.

the cave monk painting

Pictured: One cave painting representing my typical user.

While playing through the game you will travel through areas anybody can enter, but there will be places that only a specific character can get into. The nuclear scientist is the only one who can hack her way into an underground laboratory, for example. In this laboratory you will find a series of puzzles that lean on both her abilities as well as greatly flesh out her motivations. You will also find a monkey cosmonaut. I mention this because according to my data you enjoy monkeys ... who dress like people. Also something called a Zoidberg. Anyway, moving on.

Whether you are helping the knight to vanquish a dragon in order to win the favor of the princess or avoiding Egyptian deathtraps as the adventurer, these areas are the highlight of the game and reward you for playing with the different characters. 

I would, however, say that many humans will not have the patience to see all The Cave has to offer. With seven characters to use, three at a time, it means that you will have to play through the game at least three times in order to see everything. About 60% of the game is something you will experience no matter who you select, so repeat playthroughs will have you going through the same areas, collecting the same items, solving same puzzles. While your first playthrough will take about 5 hours as you try to piece together what you need to continue, your second will take you closer to three. 

the cave carnival

Pictured: One carnival, in a cave, for a hillbilly.

Is this game worth your $15? Absolutely. It is a charming downloadable (my favorite) title, but one that wasn't designed to be played over and over back-to-back. It's best enjoyed in installments over the long haul, like a good board game that you pull out when you are bored of your typical routine. If you have four hours to kill and maybe a couple of friends over (not to kill; there is local co-op), playing a round of The Cave will make for an enjoyable evening. 

Each time is just different enough depending on which characters you select that it will be a long time before the charm is truly gone, as long as you pace yourself. I am well aware how you tend to over consume something until you hate it. Pop songs, memes, celebrity rumors, I have seen them trotted around like a show pony so hard that you people kill them. Then you beat on that dead horse so hard you end up with glue. 

Don't turn The Cave into glue. 

Well, I've said my piece. You can go back to using me to watch videos, write angry comments, or stalk your crush. Hey, I'm not judging. I'll just sit here ... quietly watching. 

the cave beast

Pictured: What most internet comments are


This review is based on a digital Wii U version of The Cave.

gamrReview Verdict

Presentation - 8.5
Gameplay - 7.5
Value - 8.0

8.0

To find out more about gamrReview reviews, visit our rating system page.

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