I always believed there were two types of games. The ones you enjoy, and the ones you don’t. I recently found out however that there is another type of game out there. This isn’t just a game you enjoy, but one that at times you hate too. This is the type of game which is random, fun and a lot of the time leaves you thinking the world has gone absolutely insane. Which game am I talking about? Its The Cave, the latest downloadable game from Sega.
I first experienced this game at the Eurogamer expo, when I was challenged to write an article on the more mysterious games of the Expo. For those who don’t already know the story line of The Cave is very simple. There are seven different characters that are going into a magical and mystical cave each in search of something or someone. You can pick up to three characters to enter the cave with you, and each of them has their own abilities that will help you through the levels. For my first playthrough I picked The Knight, the Time Traveller and the Twins.
With my spelunkers (which means cave diver) chosen, I headed into the wondrous cave to discover if I would find what the hell on earth I was looking for. The levels are quite difficult, and depending on who you have chosen the levels are designed around them to use their unique abilities. Each has their own special level which details either the reason they are in The Cave, or what they are looking for in The Cave. When you play through the game with one set of characters you get one set of levels, so this means that every time you play the game with different characters or a different combination, you get a completely different set of levels. This makes the replay on this game really good. It will take you ages to go through the cave with one set, so just think how long you will be playing for if you play with all seven characters in all the combinations possible. You can also play with up to two friends if you have any, sharing the random enjoyment .If anyone is interested so far I haven’t found what I’m looking for, not for the lack of trying.
The controls are simple, nothing complex just four buttons with four actions. You use the analog stick to move, the four buttons to jump and interact and that is it. Although it is simple the controls are feel very well thought out. There are moments however where you are trying to jump over something but your character just won’t jump where or when you want them too. This is a common issue on some levels but despite this the controls are pretty good. I think that this kind of simple control layout is more like the older generation of games, going back to the days where the thing that made a game great wasn’t amazing graphics but brilliant level design and simple gameplay. With that being said the games graphics also have an old generation feel too, and this more than likely is due to the titles creator Ron Gilbert. The legend that is Ron Gilbert helped create Monkey Island not to mention Maniac Mansion, and this game looks like it has gone back and taken its graphic design inspiration from there.
The gameplay itself is a mix between a role playing game, a retro platform and a puzzle game. As I said before each each character had their own unique abilities, and each puzzle is designed around using each characters attributes to complete certain tasks. This is something that is made great use of during the character specific levels. For example in the Twins level, you have to use all three characters to operate all of the three levers to open the gate. The twins ability to temporarily freeze whilst performing an action is made use of here as they can simultaneously pull the levers, whilst going through the door and progressing in the level. The player specific puzzle solving was very cleverly designed, and was a nice break from more traditional environment specific puzzle solving.
Now I mentioned at the beginning of this article that this game is random and just plain fun and that you will probably enjoy it and hate it at the same time. I think a lot of this is down to its insane dialogue or talking, if talking is even the right word. The Cave itself talks, and does so throughout the game. You also have non playable characters talking and some of their lines are just plain random. I know it’s the pot calling the kettle black for me to call something random, but trust me when I say this really is random. Not to give you any spoilers, but in the beginning The Cave not only says he is a talking cave, but goes to say how being a talking cave makes it difficult to get dates. Now is it just me, or is that an unnecessary random comment? Random, yes. Unnecessary? Hell no. A game that is full of random lines and comments is a game that was made for people like me. The amount of times I burst out laughing just because of the randomness of it all made this game a lot of fun.
The sound effects in the game were pretty good, especially when moving objects around and when going through the levels. I will say that some of the sounds did give me a little bit of a headache, for example the noise the time traveller makes when she moves. Listening to that annoying whirring for a bit it tends to get on your nerves, but apart from that most of the sounds work well in the levels and gameplay.
Background music in the game is a bit of a difficult thing to talk about. Its not because it isn’t any good, on the contrary, it is really good. The problem is that it isn’t very often. In The Cave you can play through an entire level and hear nothing but sound effects. Now I understand that you are supposed to be in a cave and that having constant music might ruin the abeyance of the game, but I feel that even a light bit of dramatic music in the background might of helped tone down the sound effects that can be annoying. When the music is there it works really well and the music is well suited to the particular level you are on, there just could have been more of it.
+ Random and very funny dialogue during gameplay
+ Challenging and changing levels
+ Simply yet elegant controls
- The sound effects can be irritating
- Not enough background music
- The controls sometimes can be a little off
With everything being said I still think the Cave is a very good game. It is simple to play but yet very complex when it comes to the levels, and the amount of replay value the game has. The strongest thing for me in this game is and always will be the dialogue which is not only very funny, but really well placed and makes some of the more serious aspects of the game feel light hearted. The good in the game far outweighs the bad, the gaming experience in a whole is worth it, and I enjoyed playing The Cave despite getting stuck and ripping out my facial hair in frustration at some levels. Oh well, I just guess I need to become a bit better at spelunking.
-Random Man 5000
The Cave is out now for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PC
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