Announced a short while ago was Ron Gilbert and Double Fine Productions joint venture; The Cave, they had the game on show at this year's E3 and we couldn't tear ourselves away from the chance to check out the game in action.
Now before anything, we just want to make it abundantly clear that The Cave is not the Double Fine Kickstarter project; both games share the involvement of Ron Gilbert, however The Cave is the culmination of years of development time, and what they have to show for is a refreshing and humorous exploration into character and story through the use of simple adventure game style puzzles, however it is not predominantly a classic adventure game.
The Cave is based around the journey of seven different characters drawn to a large mysterious Cave for completion of their life goals and mysteries, a bit like how Silent Hill draws the weirdoes to its foggy streets, except the journey of self discovery is more of a search for enlightenment, true love, or to right a terrible wrong to name but a few. To find out the story of each character you can take three of them into the cave where you will encounter specially themed areas that explores their personal stories, for our demonstration we were shown a little bit of the Hillbilly, the Scientist and the Knight in action.
As a game from the efforts of Ron Gilbert and Doublefine, The Cave is very much an adventure game, even if it is disguised as a dungeon crawling platformer, and so like any good adventure game every problem that you encounter can be treated methodically; so for instance when your characters are blocked by a cave monster, adventure logic kicks in! That hot dog machine you passed on your way in is no longer a handy snack vendor, but a vital piece of the approaching puzzle, if you near the monster he'll burn your team to a crisp, however with a little exploration it seems that a large crane is conveniently located just above the location of the monster, now only to lure him out. Well the monster seems to have a craving for people, and that hotdog machine probably produces questionable meat, however it's currently out of water to steam them, best go find a conveniently placed bucket of water to set the plan in motion!
As you can imagine this is just one of many adventure game style puzzles, full of combinations, deduction and obscure pickups, in its current state it did look as though The Cave is not going to throw any red herrings your way, and it did seem as though the game is simple enough to grasp the imagination of the masses rather than the elite point and click fans. The mix of platforming and puzzles brings Double Fine's Stacking to mind which successfully joined the classic adventure game style combinations to a quaint and charming action game, we only hope that the Cave can accomplish the same feat.
To access certain puzzles, and to make matters more interesting, each character has their own unique abilities that will open up certain solutions and paths to puzzles, allowing each of the seven characters a different story, and playable experience. For instance the Knight's Guardian Angel ability allows him to distract the likes of dragons and other particularly threatening individuals, fall from great heights and deter death, or there's the Hillbillys ability to hold his breath indefinitely underwater allowing him to bypass certain areas that other characters cannot reach, bit like a wannabe pirate we all know and love.
Now the game can either be played cooperatively locally or alone in a similar style to the classic Lost Vikings series, where the player switches between characters effectively freezing them in action to combine the forces of all three to solve puzzles.
With almost 15 years since the last time we saw of Olaf, Baleog and Erik, like us we're sure that there are many others out there that are reminiscent for the challenging and puzzling gameplay of the group of vikings, and its playstyle was perfectly suited during the high point of adventure games. With the likes of Ron Gilbert at the helm of the game we can assume that there'll be just as much humour and snappy interaction between the characters as Maniac Mansion, it's just a shame that we have to wait so long for its release.
The Cave seems to hold a very bright and unique style, its dungeon exploring, snappy humour, colourful characters and puzzle elements will attract many to its potential charm, and despite its lack of online coop, adventure games make the perfect couch coop experience, so much so that we cannot wait to play it together.
Expect to see The Cave emerge early 2013 on XBLA, PSN and PC, at Gamercast we used to love the days controller swapping on Lost Vikings 2 and we hope to gain a similar experience in The Cave.