Tim Schafer is perhaps the more lustrous side of the Double Fine coin, but Ron Gilbert is still waiting in the shadows, ready to unveil the next brilliant adventure game upon the world. Still, though, you may have heard: the publishing world isn’t quite so optimistic on the financial possibilities. Ron Gilbert worked out a compromise: blend the genre with another, much more accessible type of game. Thus, The Cave was born.
The Cave is an interesting title, blending the old-style puzzles of LucasArts adventure games with the modern trappings of a 2-D platformer…think Shadow Complex meets Day of the Tentacle. The Cave…who, by the way, is sentient, and narrates your adventures with a deep, gravelly voice…is the destination of seven heroes, all searching for something important. We have the monk (searching for enlightenment), the knight (searching for a powerful blade), the hillbilly (searching for love), the scientist (searching for a breakthrough), the twins (searching for their mother), the adventurer (searching for treasure), and the time traveler (searching for a way to rectify a past mistake). Each character has unique abilities, and unique areas that only they can enter.
Though the game looks and controls like any recent Metroidvania-type title, the puzzles are the familiar apply and combine fare of adventure games past. Essentially any free item encountered can be picked up and used; we saw a hot dog vending machine (cleverly named “OMDog”) fixed by a bucket of water, and its resulting hot dog used to lure a dragon from its post so that another character might catch it with a crane device. There might not be any pixel hunting, but expect to be challenged logically, as the three characters in-play need to be managed concurrently to reach many areas.
In an attempt to remove the frustration of death within a game probably more enjoyed for its puzzle content, there essentially no penalty for death; the player merely is moved backwards by a screen or two. Those screens, mind you, are quite attractive aesthetically, with a cartoon art style and, in many places, handpainted backgrounds. It’s almost as though Gilbert is trying to remove as much frustration as possible from a genre well-known for...well, frustration.
The game also has a sense of humor about it: the voice acting is playful and self-referential, the Cave noting that while, yes, a talking cave is quite interesting, it’s hell on his dating life. The Gilbert touch is evident, and while platforms and release dates have not yet been announced, The Cave is looking fantastic.