Double Fine Productions' new adventure game 'The Cave'.
It's not exactly the trio of explorers one would expect when venturing inside a dark, dingy cave. Yet the Amelia Earhart inspired adventurer, overall-wearing, bearded Hillbilly and female Scientist with thick, red glasses and lab coat manuever through this underground lair like veteran spelunkers.
The Cave, Sega's new adventure game developed by respected designer Ron Gilbert, is a charming, fun voyage filled with frightening creatures and clever puzzles.
The Cave features seven different characters, each with their own story that unravels as they embark on a trip inside a talking cave. Players start by choosing three of the characters -- the Scientist, the Adventurer, the Hillbilly, the Time Traveler, the Knight, the Twins and the Monk -- and making their drop downward.
The latest adventure from Double Fine Productions (Brutal Legend) and Gilbert -- best known for his work with classic adventures series Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island -- features a fascinating group of explorers and great dialogue. "I'm just a pile of rocks filled with musty air and bat droppings. What could I possibly know about life?," quips the cave in a teaser.
For this playthrough, I choose the aforementioned trio of the Adventurer, Hillbilly and Scientist. Each has their reason for visiting the cave. The Adevnturer makes an important archaeological find that threatens the relationships with her partners, while The Scientist inches closer to a key discovery that could change all of mankind. Meanwhile, the Hillbilly seeks out his one true love.
Stages of The Cave are inspired by each character's journey, so they'll differ depending on the trio chosen. In the case of the Hillbilly, who met the love of his life at a carnival, the cave boasts a variety of games such as Guess Your Weight or Test Your Strength.
Levels feature a variety of puzzles players must solve to advance further down. They also require teamwork, allowing players to quickly switch between characters with the directional pad on the controller. In some cases, one character will perform a task while a second is in position to execute another gesture and complete the puzzle.
Along with unique stories, each character has a special ability. The Hillbilly can hold his breath for a long time and swim underwater, while the Adventurer has a grappling hook to traverse large gaps.
Each puzzle feels expertly designed, pushing players to think of the best way to use each character. A very early challenge requires players to move a giant, sleeping beast. A pit sits right in front of the creature, with a mechanical claw dangling above. There's also a bell that awakens the creature when rung. Without giving away too much detail, I navigate between each character, finding the appropriate lure to entice the creature and snatch it with the claw.
Since each character has their own story, The Cave is an easy game to revisit, chronicling all seven figures' tales underground. The game does feature co-op for those who don't want to tackle the adventure alone, but the drawback is it's offline only.
Don't let that discourage you from exploring The Cave. It's yet another satisfying title in the fine line of Ron Gilbert adventure games.
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U
Rating: T for Teen
Release Date: Jan. 22
Score: 3.5 stars (out of 4)*
- by Brett Molina, USA Today
* Equivalent to a Game Guys score of 88/100