25 years. That’s essentially how long the idea for The Cave has been in veteran designer Ron Gilbert’s head. Evidently, he had this concept bouncing around in the ol’ noggin even before his Commodore 64 classic, Maniac Mansion , was on store shelves. Now he has taken his experiences with the ever-growing industry (he was also partly responsible for the Monkey Island franchise) and brought them all together to bring The Cave to fruition. He also enlisted the help of Psychonauts developer Double Fine, which was a darn good idea.
This new downloadable title set for the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade and PC is just rife with fantastic creativity and humor. Players will assume the roles of various “unlikely adventurers” and each will be very distinct, with his or her own set of skills and abilities. Settings include an underground amusement park, a medieval castle, and even a ballistic missile…not sure how that’s going to work, exactly, but we would never doubt the ingenuity and imagination of those involved in this project. The unique characters and engaging backdrops will undoubtedly be highlights of your adventure, and rightly so. They're always crucial.
Seven characters enter this strange cave, three at a time. The math doesn’t sound right but bear in mind that we’re counting the Twins as two characters, when in fact they always stick together. The other characters are the Hillbilly, the Knight, the Scientist, the Adventurer, and the Monk. Not only is each very different from one another in terms of gameplay mechanics and individual strengths and weaknesses, each has a very trying personal memory or fear. They somehow have to deal with that as they progress through this living cave, which also talks, by the way. Yeah, the cave itself almost seems like a separate character, which will dictate your advancement and mold itself to your actions.
Gilbert has been quoted as saying this title represents “an evolution of adventure games,” as we’ve moved past the old-fashioned point-and-click gameplay from yesteryear. Players will always be moving as they attempt to solve puzzles and avoid a variety of dangers. Furthermore, Gilbert and Double Fine have added a new layer of strategy, as you won’t have an inventory. You can only grab what you need when you need it, which generally means surveying the obstacle before picking up any potentially helpful items in the area. We’ve also heard that the puzzles will have multiple solutions, so there’s some player freedom here.
As you progress, the puzzles and situations will be come more elaborate, forcing you to take advantage of each character’s unique capabilities. The Monk has telekinesis while the Hillbilly can…well, blow on things really hard. He has great lungs, apparently. The coolest part is that you can select the characters you take with you, so each play-through could prove to be decidedly different, as you’ll have different skill sets with which to experiment. Obviously, this is shaping up to be one of the best downloadable games of the year, provided the basic control and gameplay mechanics are solid. Adventure games aren’t dead; they’ve merely grown up a little. And there's nothing wrong with that.
The Cave will be out later this month. Those seeking creativity and originality have no choice but to try it. Seriously.