Format: Playstation 3
Difficulty Played: N/A
Some spoilers ahead folks!
You chose 3 of 7 characters to spelunker in a mysterious living cave. The Cave, this is the only name it identifies itself as, is the narrator of the story. It exposes all of the characters most wanted desires. Not only does he make it feasible for them to obtain their wants and desires, but it lets them choose their own path to obtain them. Along the way you’ll run into puzzles based upon moral choice and ethics.
This was made by Double Fine. They have always made strange art games. So this production isn’t any different. The reason I point this out is because I hope this review will encourage people to pick it up or at least consider it, because it does have flaws and yet is still a great piece of story telling. This is a cross between most modern moral choice games and cause and effect theories, like the Butterfly Effect. Why? Because The Cave is alive. As described in the synopses it talks to you through the whole game. The Cave even plays with your emotions some to make you wonder what’s going to happen to the characters and other people you meet along the way. It exposes the characters for what they are and lets you decide their fate. This is hard to do considering most of the people are just terrible somehow. Many of them rely on acts of murder, lying, stealing, or even arson to get what they want.
Yes. You read that right.
Various sins are major themes of half the game.
The cute fluffy exterior is completely misleading to the underline themes and subject matter. At the core of half the game it’s about revolting selfish people who are terrible that do anything to get what they want. To a certain extent it’s like looking at the 7 deadly sins playing out their greatest fantasies. The even more revolting thing is that many of them live happily after committing these various atrocities, without punishment or remorse. One instance a guy looses his mind because some woman didn’t fall in love with him so he goes across country on a killing and arson spree. Another story involves committing a small nuclear Armageddon so the character can become rich. The list goes on, and things can get much worse.
The fantastic thing about this is that the other half of the game is about redemption. Since you get to choose the characters fate then you can lead them down a better path. All the better paths are much more heart warming and rewarding compared to the counter parts. To the same extent it still shows the character(s) living happily knowing they did the right thing. Also all stories have a moral, consequences to the characters action(s), and with some it shows how the future treats them.
So why did I throw up the Double Fine disclaimer? All Double Fine productions have always had a odd sense of game play, style, and absolutely aren’t for everyone. Like with this game in order to get the full character(s) story you have to play the game upward of 4 times. Also in order to get all the achievements you have to play the game in upwards of 5 to 7 times. This drags out the puzzles you’ve already solved, ruins the jokes, and makes the game play bland.
It would be one thing if the puzzles changed each time you play the game. Some adventure games do this, but this games doesn’t. They are the exact same puzzles, jokes, everything in each extra play through. It get’s boring and repetitious. So I don’t know if it that was their intention, but it kinda reflects the telling of morals or common knowledge. The most basic ideals of understand, or of what’s right and wrong, are often repeated.
The repetition kinda hurts in a way once you hear some of the same jokes multiple times because it really is a witty game. The dark humor oozes out like a Tim Burton and Disney collaboration. However it does it with more subtly and its a little darker at times. On top of that since half the game involves murder the game does all it can to make light of those situations in very colorful ways. It has it’s own wonderful charm, atmosphere, sense of direction, and soft tone brought on by the cartoonish way things play out and are less violent/realistic then they could be.
However the game play wears on the whole experience. You’ll often find yourself dying because you jumped the wrong way or didn’t jump to the next ledge at the right time. Well you can’t actually die, but that’s kinda irrelevant consider most games if you do die you just start over and continue on. However, when the characters already run at a incredibly slow pace and the cave is IMMENSELY large then it hampers your problem solving and the pace of the game. Like you’ll have to do various back tracking to bring a item from spot A to spot B. That may not sound bad, but what if spot A was in America and spot B was in England. Somewhere in the middle you die and it starts you back at spot A. That incredibly pissed me off multiple times.
You could be at the last little bit of whatever puzzle and after you solve it you can move on to the next room. However if you die you could delay yourself by minutes just by all the backtracking. If that doesn’t piss you off enough the item you have, since your characters can only carry one item at a time for some reason, might not even work at the sight of the puzzle. So you’ll be running back and forth between point A and point B a lot!
Sure the difficulty of the puzzles eventually results to basically thinking of whats around you and you can figure it out once you put things together. That’s easy but with the first few times you enter a cave’s section(s) you can easily get confused and lose tract of where everything is. So you could be walking in the completely wrong direction for 2+ minutes and not even know it until you reach a dead end, which this game has a lot of for some reason. After a while even The Cave (the narrator) will give you some hints in the way he talks in order to help you out. It won’t lead to many of the achievements, but it will help you progress with the stories at hand.
Another thing about the game play that I thought was odd, or maybe irritating, is that you’ll learn eventually that all the characters have a singular special power. To me that is just damn neat. Unfortunately throughout most of the game the powers are useless until you come to certain character specific location. Sure they’re fun to use, but ultimately useless 90% of the time and don’t add anything to the game play. To me this is odd since every other game out there if a character has a special ability then they can use it whenever and it successfully interacts with the area around them. The only reason I can guess that this was undeveloped was that is because Double Fine‘s style of game play has always relied off you to use your brain more, and the area surrounding your character, then the powers of a character. Like in Psychonauts (9.0/10, by the way) your special ability are mostly only used during combat. Regardless I think they could have expanded upon it a little more.
The graphics are ascetically beautiful. Some parts of the cave is alike a ever changing canvas and you’re characters are changing it. I know this is a simple game, but the amount of detail put into simple areas of the cave is nothing short of wonderful. For example: you can play as a monk and when you start to climb a mountain it starts to rain and the wind blows. This gives a wonderful distant exploration feeling to climbing the mountain and makes you feel really damn small. These are small details that enhance really mundane tasks. Even with something as odd as running across one of the roof tops of London, England the meshed green and black hues of the background add a dreary sense of unforeseen terror. Heck, there are even funny bits that add to the tremendous style of the game. Like there’s one spot where two fossilized dinosaurs can be seen in the cave walls having tea. I know many of them are cartoonish, but adds character to The Cave (the narrator) and the actual surroundings of the cave itself.
In turn the glitches are few and far between. Unfortunately the few that are there are completely game breaking. One instance I was the adventurer lady on some Ferris Wheel and when it made a full loop she went into a falling animation loop, but she was in the middle of the ferris wheel’s cart. I couldn’t move her out and she would only spin left and right. Regardless it was one of the few times I had to restart the game in order to complete the area. Another the camera didn’t move with the character so it got stuck to one section of the cave ans since I couldn’t see what I was doing I had to restart the game. The rest I’ve actually forgot, but they are super rare to run into so I wouldn’t worry about them. Also they are mostly self fixing considering you can just restart the game and the characters will be at a different location and behave normal from then on.
All in all I love this game, but it absolutely isn’t for everyone. It is a great throw back to the old point and click adventure game genera. The atmosphere, lighting, sound, and character development is supreme. The major pain for many will be getting the full story of the characters. As stated before in order to get the whole story you have to replay the game multiple times in order to unlock all of the story segments. This isn’t as bad for those who’ve already fell in love with the weird charm of the game, like me, or simply love adventure games. However, it will be a trying task for many others due to the slow pace and large level design.
At this point it’s totally worth the $15 bucks if you love good story telling and a ominous narrator playing with you, but the game play will wear on you if you’re not ready for it or use to the adventure genera. So you might need to break up your game play in order to fully enjoy the experience, because this really is a experience you will enjoy.