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The Cave (Wii U eShop) Review

Review for The Cave on Wii U eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Bringing the genius of Ron Gilbert together with the equally impressive reputation of Double Fine unsurprisingly got many people excited for the offspring that was to be produced. Whilst The Cave is not the point-and-click adventure of yore that some were hoping for, the SEGA-published character-switching puzzle adventure is still something to behold. Whether or not it truly fulfils all of its initial potential, however, is another matter.

It all starts off with the choice of three characters from a group of seven, each of whom has their own mini back-story, with The Twins that want to play outside, The Monk that hopes to find his master, The Scientist who is on the cusp of a great discovery. The voiceover used in The Cave for the actual cave that the chosen team enters (yes, a cave that talks!), is extremely deep and mysterious, bringing dark humour to the table as well, and goes to show how a strong voice talent can sometimes be just as important as the soundtrack included (which itself is full of foreboding and spectacular throughout, building a magnificent ambience).

The Cave plays out in platform style, rather than point-and-click as some may have imagined when it was first revealed by Double Fine, in collaboration with Ron Gilbert. With three characters (well, technically four if the evil-looking twins are included) the aim is to carefully guide all safely through the bowels of the cave, deep into the darkness, using each individual's special skill to overcome hurdles, make appropriate use of objects lying around and, ultimately, solve puzzles. To begin with it may seem pointless having to switch between three folk repeatedly - despite it being a mere tap of the directional pad to do so - but very early on it becomes highly apparent that the development team has indeed crafted a slew of conundrums that can only be passed by means of using more than one character concurrently (switch pressing and lever throwing being basic examples, counterbalancing being a more complicated one further in). Many older gamers will instantly be reminded of Lost Vikings on the Super Nintendo, mainly because it was a brilliant example of how to splice platform and puzzle antics.

Screenshot for The Cave on Wii U eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Despite its initial vim and vigour, luring players in with superb presentation and an intriguing premise, The Cave is not without its flaws, unfortunately. For instance, each character's special ability is not explained from the off and, thus, trial-and-error will have to be used throughout to figure how best to use certain skills to easier pass specific sections (unless specifically going into the help menu and check the 'How to Play' part, of course - but hey, who checks manuals nowadays, right?). The more concerning drawback, however, is that there is far too much traipsing around. Whilst there is a 'quick kill' button combination put in place to help speed up the process of returning to some earlier areas (with deaths causing an instant re-spawn at oft-random locations, making for some confusion at times), far too often players will spend a considerable amount of time and effort slowly positioning the three characters around to crack a puzzle, only to then have to one-by-one get them back to another location to drop off an item, and then for the game to require all three to be painfully dragged back to yet another distant area to collect something, before once more rinsing and repeating the same process until moving onto the next piece of excellence.

Yes, excellence; it is a crying shame that such a smart-looking platform-puzzle-adventure, with heaps of atmosphere and heaps of potential, is bogged down by tiresome puzzle solving, and whilst the platform elements are undeniably tight in terms of jumping and general control (a saving grace, definitely), the whole procedure of slowly manoeuvring everyone around, backwards and forwards, becomes exceedingly laborious and spoils what is otherwise a very fine game indeed. Grabbing one or two friends to play co-operatively eases the pain, but most will likely play this solo, and therefore, boredom and frustration will both kick in sooner rather than later.

What The Cave really probably needed was proper optimisation for the Wii U to make use of the GamePad in a better way than the cursory tapping of a character to switch to them, which proves more awkward than the default D-pad button presses, in all honesty. Being able to make use of Off-TV play, with easy touch screen controls for character switching and gathering all three to the same place quickly and simply, would have been the ideal. Perhaps in The Cave 2, with any luck!

Screenshot for The Cave on Wii U eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Although some of the puzzles are indeed clever and the use of the three-character team is engaging at first, the game is far too bogged down by slow paced back-and-forth quests that suck a large chunk of the entertainment factor out.

Graphics

Superb visuals that look truly amazing in HD and give such an wondrous sense of foreboding throughout the adventure deeper into the cave.

Sound

From the sublime voice acting to the mysterious and mesmeric music, and apt sound effects, the ambience is perfect for the setting and ups the engrossing nature of the game considerably.

Value

With the game encouraging playback with all seven characters, there is potentially plenty of longevity, yet the frustrations involved with playing through just once will likely deter repeated play.

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Average

About this score

With The Cave, SEGA and Double Fine have brought the world a very intriguing character-switching puzzle adventure that glows thanks to its superb presentation values and dark humour. Unfortunately, though, there are some gameplay frustrations that mar the experience, which proves to be a crying shame given how potentially great it could have been.

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09.03.2013

9

5139

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Developer

Double Fine

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

3

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date 2013   Australian release date Out now   

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

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I never felt any of the frustrations that a lot of reviewers aimed at this game. I played it with fmily and enjoyed it alot. I had no problem with the jump mechanic (ign) switching character  (ign) back tracking (cubed3) I thoroughly enjoyed it and I would recommend anyone to try it out (demo) THe narration is good. THere was during my play through a significant frame drop towards the end and one or two glitches but I would give it a solid 8.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Forgot about that - yes, there were indeed some frame-rate blips, but not enough to hamper the play as much as the annoyance of moving characters around. Clearly my view is just a personal opinion, though - interesting to hear you didn't find it problematic, so thanks for sharing Smilie

I had no issues with jumping or character switching. I actually thought the whole platform element was extremely tight and I was thankful for that as otherwise it would have driven me nuts!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I was extremely surprised to see this hit the Instant Game Collection on US PS Plus already. Gives me the impression it didn't sell well at all.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
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Darkflame (guest) 09.03.2013 17:20#4

The other issue might have been the $3million fans put on a kickstarter only to find them working on this (and a few other) fully funded and publisher based games as well. That might have caused some negativity.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Azuardo said:
I was extremely surprised to see this hit the Instant Game Collection on US PS Plus already. Gives me the impression it didn't sell well at all.

It's riding high in the UK Wii U downloads chart, already right near the top of the 'all-time best selling' games. That might just show hardly anyone's downloading on Wii U, but hey, looks better than nothing Smilie

Darkflame (guest) said:
The other issue might have been the $3million fans put on a kickstarter only to find them working on this (and a few other) fully funded and publisher based games as well. That might have caused some negativity.

Hah, yeah, I heard similar rumblings, and it's also what caused some confusion about The Cave initially, with many believing it was an early reveal of the Kickstarter game.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Wow, surprising score given what I've watched - haven't tried the demo yet.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

When I started playing, Jorge, it was a definite 8/10...and then as I got further in, I got more and more cheesed off with the slow characters and constantly repositioning them. There's one specific part that really got on my nerves where you need to return three mine carts. LOTS of wandering around.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
J (guest) 09.03.2013 20:02#8

Darkflame (guest) said:
The other issue might have been the $3million fans put on a kickstarter only to find them working on this (and a few other) fully funded and publisher based games as well. That might have caused some negativity.

Not really. As a backer for the project you get regular updates on the status of the game. From the beginning on it was made clear that DF is working on several projects at the same time. They even have a regular event called "Amnesia Fortnight" where they lay down everything they work on to come up with random new game ideas.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

That sounds pretty cool, a bit like the competition Frontier has where internal staff are encouraged to regularly come up with new ideas.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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