Have you played… The Cave?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

There have been a lot of attempts to find a more modern form for the point-and-click adventure. The Cave has the benefit of being designed by Ron Gilbert, the creator of some of the best, with art and animation from the always-good-at-those-particular-things Double Fine.

The results were only OK, sadly. You select a character from a possible seven and then guide them through the tunnels of a magic, talking cave. On each visit, depending on the character you pick, new areas are available to you, including strange laboratories, ancient Egyptian temples and many more. It’s occasionally reminiscent of those skeleton-strewn tunnels near the end of Monkey Island 2.

It’s also as much a platform game as it is an adventure. Though you’ll advance by carrying and combining items in order to solve puzzles, movement is best controlled with an analogue stick, sometimes you need to jump between things, and the cave itself is the only character who ever speaks.

Unfortunately that means the experience often feels slightly hollow, as you never meet another living character to talk to and the movement is never designed to offer a challenge and therefore ends up feeling like a lot of time spent walking.

The environments and animation almost make up for that – Double Fine really do a good job of making the hillbilly’s giant padding feet satisfying to watch, for example – but it’s not quite enough to make it a modern incarnation of what made Gilbert’s older games so great.


  1. basilisk says:

    Yeah, I have. A game killed by some spectacularly terrible design choices, the worst of them being two extremely tedious sequences that are shared by all characters and can’t be skipped if you just want to see the parts you haven’t played yet. (And to see all the character arcs, you would have to play the whole thing *five times*.)

    The bits exploring individual characters are hit and miss, but the wrapping is mostly just bad. It’s basically Dizzy, except somehow worse than most of Dizzy, with completely pointless platforming and trivial puzzles. All in all, rather disappointing.

    • N'Al says:

      This, basically.

    • MrBehemoth says:

      “It’s basically Dizzy”

      Yes! And I thought I really wanted a shiny, new Dizzy-like. Turned out I didn’t.

  2. Epicedion says:

    Pretty much Double Fine’s MO at this point: create a wacky/funny idea that’s slightly madcap and slightly brilliant, make it look amazing and quirky, botch the overall design, release it kind of crappy. When’s the last time they actually put out a solid title?

    • Yachmenev says:

      The last one, Headlander.

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      gritz says:

      I didn’t play it until at least a year after it was released, but it seemed pretty technically solid.

      And I’m saying that as someone who’s very skeptical of DF after having been burned so many times by their lack of support.

    • Nerdy Suit says:

      The majority of DF’s titles are solid and pretty great. So there’s that. Hataz gonna hate, I guess.

      As far as this game goes, I enjoyed it. It has some “meh” design choices noted above, but it’s still a very good experience with a great feel and uniqueness to it.

  3. Stevostin says:

    Played it, loved it. Gameplay was okay but I am way passed the point of caring that much about gameplay. Completed it twice. Very good story, one of the few that stayed with me a bit after playing. As usual with DF it’s not the genre you may expect. While it looks like a platformer it’s way more of an adventure game. It’s absolutely ok gameplay wise.

    To me a DF is so often underrated. Puzzle Quest was also played a lot by my kid at the time, and so few people seemed aware that as far as family games go, it was just great. It’s not the best tight classic gameplay, it’s rather the average innovative tongue in cheek gameplay. Which is sometimes more desirable.

    Anyway, Pyschonauts is revered by some but IMO, it’s way (way) quirkier and half cooked than this one, which was IMO quite well polished.

  4. vorador says:

    I got it in some bundle, still haven’t got around to play it.

  5. genoforprez says:

    I thought it was great, but there isn’t much replay value. Then again, adventure games generally don’t have much replay value so eh.

    • maphisto2000 says:

      Agreed. I enjoyed it, but nothing pulled me back in to want to experience it again with a different character.

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    gritz says:

    Everyone should play this game and at least go through The Twins’ section. That bit was outstanding.

    • Guzzleguts says:

      Yeah, I really love the way that only the twins can enter the house. There aren’t many co-op games that give one player the opportunity to have an extended nap because they literally can’t do anything. Visionary design there.

  7. criskywalker says:

    Disappointing little game…

    Now, Thimbleweed Park… That’s a game I’m really looking forward to!

  8. Jekadu says:

    The Cave features some pretty heavy commentary on the adventure game genre. It’s worth playing it for that alone.

  9. genoforprez says:

    I agree that The Twins section was great!

    Also to anyone faulting DF for whatever you didn’t like about the game, you should understand that DF was basically just helping with the art and building of the game. Design-wise it was 100% Ron Gilbert’s baby, so if you didn’t like the design, then you are really criticizing Ron Gilbert, just fyi, if ya’ll care.

  10. bergamote says:

    A while ago we tried to play the Cave three player co-op but the camera made the whole thing frustrating/unplayable and we didn’t get very far before giving up.

    • Guzzleguts says:

      Probably my all-time least favourite co-op game. On the other hand controlling all the characters solo was clunky as hell. I guess it’s really designed for neither co-op nor solo. I’m saying it’s designed to not be played.

  11. shoptroll says:

    I liked The Cave. It’s fun but definitely flawed. It still bothers me that there’s 7 character options but you can only take 3 so if you’re trying to see the whole game you need to run through it multiple times with up to 2 characters. And then do it all over again if you want the alternate endings for each character.

    Also, the stupid time traveler rock puzzle.