Adventure games just won’t die. And why should they? With developers like Double Fine creating games as whimsical and offbeat as Ron Gilbert’s upcoming downloadable, The Cave, I say keep them coming. The game infuses genre standards like goofy puzzles, odd characters, and item collection with refreshing new features. Ron Gilbert took time out of his packed E3 2012 schedule to take us on a tour of his mysterious cave.
The presentation begins with an introduction from the cave itself, which speaks in a sultry voice. The sentient, sprawling cavern is not only the setting – it’s another character in the story. The game’s main stars include seven unique personalities all searching the cave for something different: A Monk seeking his master, a Scientist hoping to help the world, a love-hungry Hillbilly, a set of spooky twins searching for their parents, a Knight hunting for a blade, and a Time Traveler questing to undo a mistake one million years in the making. Players select three characters to form their ragtag crew, and Gilbert encourages folks to play through the game to see what each member of the cast has to offer. Each has a unique ability that will be necessary to solve certain puzzles, such as the Knight’s invulnerable shield and the Hillbilly’s ability to breath underwater indefinitely. In one instance, the Knight absorbs a dragon’s fiery breath with his shield, allowing the Scientist to sneak up from behind and steal a piece of gold.
To begin, Gilbert selects the Hillbilly, Knight, and Scientist. Much like Trine or The Lost Vikings, players switch between the three characters at will to solve environmental puzzles. One scenario involves luring a dragon under a crane with a piece of meat. After much humorous trial and error, Gilbert steers the Hillbilly in position at the controls of a claw machine, posts the Knight at an attention-grabbing bell, and makes the Scientist grab a hotdog from a vending machine. After all the pieces are in place, Gilbert manages to lure the dragon towards the sausage by ringing the bell, which brings it just underneath the claw machine, allowing him to snatch up the monster and clear the way. As evidenced here, Double Fine’s wacky imagination is in full effect, and the results are hilarious.
The Cave implements elements that set it apart from the early point-and-click adventure games created by legendary developers like Double Fine’s Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert. Instead of selecting your characters’ destinations and waiting patiently as they walk across the screen, The Cave allows you to take direct control. Light platforming elements make traversing the vast cave more rewarding, though difficult jumps aren’t part of the equation. Each death sets the character back a few seconds before death. Double Fine wants you to beat the game, not punish you.
Multiplayer is also implemented into The Cave, allowing up to three players to search the mysterious caverns together locally. We didn’t see the co-op in action, but it sounds like a good way to hammer out tough puzzles with friends.
The Cave looks like a fantastic treat for adventure fans wanting more control over the onscreen riddles. The interesting environmental puzzles don’t appear to hold your hand, which should make solving them all the more rewarding. Additionally, the lack of annoying death penalties means the only thing that may stop players from beating the game is a lack of wits. Gilbert’s tour through his new creation reminds me of a colorful, funny version of Limbo that incorporates multiple characters. I couldn’t be more okay with that. The game hits 360, PS3, and PC early 2013.