elving deep into the Cave: A Monk, an Adventurer and a Knight walk into a Cave… sounds like the setup for a bad joke but it is in fact a brand new side-scrolling puzzle platform adventure (mostly this one) game from Ron Gilbert, the creator of Monkey Island and Double Fine, the developing studio that brought us Pyschonauts. Nice creds.
Available on PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii U, it is retailing at $15, a small price for a game with such a solid background.
You play a choice of three out of seven sinister and selfish stereotypes, controlling all three by yourself or playing local co-op with a friend or two, each motivated by greed and desire (the characters, not your friends I hope!) There are no heroes here, just a Monk, Adventurer, Knight, Scientist, Time-Traveller, a Hill-billy and a pair of young Twins each desperately wanting something that can be found by plundering the depths of the darkness. They’d make a fantastic cast for a new Addams Family!
ach character has their own story which you explore through the medium of collectible paintings, their own abilities and their own area unique to them. To actually complete the game and see everything you’ll need to play through the Cave three times. My first playthrough took me exactly 3.8 hours according to steam; the second playthrough will be quicker and the third quicker again due to repeating some areas. I’d estimate the whole game gives roughly 10 hours or so of gameplay. I do have concerns that on my second playthrough much of the content will be the same and I’ll find repeating some sections tedious. I’d highly recommend playing through with different people each time if you happen to be fortunate enough to have friends since this will definitely up the entertainment stakes.
But talking of that, it’s important to note that this is local co-op only, including the PC. As PC gamers we’re not really used to having to get our friends to cluster around our monitors and many PC gamers don’t keep a controller; let alone two. I do feel that if you’re looking to play this co-op then for once I may recommend console play over the PC. Huddled up with Ben at my desk may sound romantic; but the close space combined with him constantly stealing the character I was playing was a recipe for divorce and I ditched him after an hour.
his is no ordinary cave – this is THE Cave - we’re diving into a portal to the fine folks at Double Fine’s imagination. Adding to the obvious fact that this cave talks, I found myself travelling through a variety of unexpected landscapes filled with strange things, stumbling across a completely unexpected gem. I’m not going to go into specifics and give it away but the scenery was definitely enjoyable. Be prepared to meet just about anything when you go around a corner and I found that completely charming, if slightly incongruous.
Graphically this game is detailed cartoon style with a strong art aesthetic. Due to the theme of the cave it is quite dark and gloomy. It’s not bright, shiny or pretty but it is pleasing to the eye and certainly atmospheric – matching perfectly with the droll yet chillingly entertaining voice over of the Cave, teaching us lessons in morality and making us chuckle at the same time as we play.
The important part of a puzzle game for me is obviously the puzzles themselves and this game excels at creating a dark, frustrating, bizarre, sometimes amusing and always entertaining logic adventure. The overall difficulty level isn’t that challenging; but there are certainly a few gems in there that will wake your brain up and make you feel smart when you finally figure out what to do – I do so like it when a game makes me feel smart, even if it made me feel dumb for a while first.
ne of the slight downsides for me is that you leave characters, items and puzzle sections off screen and since I have the memory of a pineapple I often forget exactly what items I have available to me along with what day it is. It does add a lot of time backtracking and if you happen to forget that 5 minutes ago you wandered past an empty fuse box that looked like it might power something, the puzzle is going to be harder and more tedious. Sometimes there is a lightbulb moment “Oh! That’s what I needed!” and I feel a frisson of excitement, I’ve done it, I’ve solved the puzzle! But now I have to walk back for 5 minutes, pick it up, then walk back again to the object… and the excitement fizzles, just a little. On the other hand it does make puzzles feel a lot larger and encourages you to pay attention to every little detail. Maybe I just need to toughen up and play a little more Brain Training before tackling it again.
There is minimal platforming, just basic jumping and climbing. It felt smooth to me with both controller and keyboard. As a die-hard PC gamer, I could see myself chilling out on the sofa playing this on controller on my Steam Big Picture no problem.
Overall this game is highly entertaining, dark and twisted yet comic, well written and puzzlingly challenging but it does have a lack of long-term re-playability and was over regrettably fast.