Double Fine has had a very successful run with nary a misstep since Tim Schafer and company opened the studio in 2000. After the huge productions that were Psychonauts and Brutal Legend, the company decided to shift its focus to smaller, more quickly produced titles such as Costume Quest and Stacking. The most recent of the new Double Fine games is The Cave, and it looks to mix the traditional style of classic adventure games with more modern platforming elements.
The Cave is not just the primary location for this adventure, it also happens to be the narrator, complete with its own personality and back story. Although the demo only gave the titular Cave a few lines of dialogue, its sultry voice will clearly play a much larger role in the full game.
As for the adventure itself, there will be seven playable characters to choose from: a pilot, a hillbilly, a scientist, a pair of twins, a knight, a time traveler, and a monk. Any three of these characters can be chosen to play through the game with, and each will provide the player with a unique experience relating to each of their personal stories.
This is a 3D adventure game with platforming elements, but it also takes plenty of cues from classic point-and-click adventures. Puzzles are around every corner, impeding the adventurers’ progression through the Cave.
Connections can also be drawn to the classic Blizzard game The Lost Vikings, because all three characters will be necessary to tackle the obstacles presented. The first roadblock the travelers came across in the demo was an enormous cave monster blocking their path. Approaching the monster resulted in immediate death for the hillbilly (one of the three characters chosen for the demo), making it clear that brute force would not be an option. Instead, teamwork and careful planning would be the best weapons to topple the beast.
Switching between characters is as simple as pressing a button. This is true not only in single player, but in co-op as well. Drop-in/drop-out local co-op was one feature Double Fine made sure to highlight during the presentation, making multiplayer sessions as painless and enjoyable as possible. Speaking of painless, the incineration-by-cave-monster did not kill the character or result in a game over – rather, the foolish hillbilly simply respawned a few steps back. The developers explain this lack of punishment within the story: the Cave wants the three troubled souls to succeed. He cannot help them achieve their goals, but he can give them as many chances as they need to find their way.
After reevaluating the area, the hillbilly and his companions (the scientist and the knight) split up to find another way past the beast. In front of the monster was a small pit positioning suspiciously close to a dinner bell that woke it from its slumber; above was a claw that descended toward the pit when activated; in a cavern below the monster was a vending machine with hot dogs in it. Huge hot dogs. The scientist tossed the hot dog into the pit, the knight rung the dinner bell, and the hillbilly trapped the beast by lowering the claw, which promptly snagged it. This was a very simplistic example of what kind of challenges the game would offer, but it gave a basic idea of how the characters would work together to triumph.
The second and final location shown in the demo was an area meant specifically for the knight. During every playthrough, each character will be presented with challenges specific to their hopes and dreams – the knight’s happened to be saving a princess from a castle guarded by a dragon, obviously. This gave the Double Fine team a chance to show off the knight’s special ability, called ‘guardian angel,’ which allowed him to fall great distances without expiring. Each character will have a special ability necessary to the solutions of some puzzles. In this case, the knight used the ‘guardian angel’ power to make himself invulnerable to the dragon’s flaming breath while the scientist sneaked in behind him to steal treasure.
It might be in the realm of beating a dead horse to comment that a Double Fine production looks good, but I’ll say it anyway: The Cave is shaping up to be a great adventure title. Ron Gilbert might have strayed a bit from his roots with DeathSpank in 2010, but now that he has teamed back up with Tim Schafer for a more traditional game, the results should be as fun to play as they are hilarious to see.
The Cave, published by Sega, is set to be released in early 2013 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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