Gaming Feature: The Cave – a Puzzle Game for Puzzle Haters?

Do you want to follow the stories of seven homicidal characters who are bent on a path of destruction, and a wise sentient cave that tries to show them the error of their ways? Do you normally suck at puzzle games? Do you like a bit of simple 2D side-scrolling platforming with no penalties for death? Then The Cave may be the title for you!

Entrance sign in The Cave

I’m not going to go into much detail about the core gameplay here as there are SO many reviews out there about this game right now. Instead, I’m going to talk about how I felt playing the game as someone who doesn’t normally get on with puzzlers.

To give you an idea of my background, I have played a range of puzzlers, including Day of the Tentacle, Myst, Machinarium, and that blasted Flash game where you were stuck in various rooms. I enjoy them, but only if I use strategy guides almost constantly to get through them, or otherwise I froth at the mouth with frustration. I didn’t have to do that much with The Cave. As a result, I suspect that people who normally enjoy puzzlers and are good at them won’t like this game – I’ve certainly seen a few lukewarm reviews about the interwebs. The game also requires a bit of patience, as you do have to do quite a bit of back and forth across the level to get stuff done.

Monster torturing in The Cave.

Torturing this poor hotdog-loving creature is but one of the evil/fun things you must do to proceed.

However, if you’re at all like me, you may well find that this is the best puzzle game that you’ve ever played, because I did. This is probably because of its linear style, which suits me down to the ground. You can play almost all of this game (with the exception of the Monk level I’d say) by following a logical path of trial and error gameplay. There is only one solution to each puzzle, and each step follows on from the last, with every step needing to be completed in order. You might argue that this is a bit rigid and uncreative, but I find that it pleases some strange part of my brain that enjoys using method and repetition to complete a task.

This even remains enjoyable for me when playing it through again – there are entire sections of the game that, even though they differ slightly, are largely the same no matter what characters you play. And yet I still love doing them. Why? Because I enjoy repetition and method.

Another thing that I love is story. This game is quite story driven. Although it didn’t seem it at first, as I approached the end and realised that you can get both a good and a bad ending for every character, I was hooked. Why did I grind through all that repetitive silliness in JRPGs for years and years? Because I enjoyed it yes, but also because I became interested in what was going to happen to the characters at the end, and knew there was another juicy slice of story goodness awaiting me if I could just level up for that next boss. That motivated me.

Good story covers over a multitude of sins.

And then there’s the humour. It’s slightly dark, but I do have a dark sense of humour, so again, this suits me! There’s constant narration from The Cave himself, expounding the futility of human thinking and the incompetence of previous adventurers who ventured down into The Cave, as well as the foolish choices that the main characters make at various points in the game. The voice acting is, at all times, top notch, as I would expect from a Double Fine title.

The innocent Twins in The Cave.

Unlike some Indie titles (such as Proteus) this game offers a lot of bang for your buck if you get into it like I did. You will easily get over 10 hours gameplay (less than £1 per hour!) from the game from doing all the playthroughs.

All in all it feels a bit like Double Fine said “Paul, here’s an Indie game made just for you, that you will enjoy”. If you have similar personality traits to the ones that I’ve described here, maybe you’ll enjoy The Cave as well!

What do you think about The Cave? Comments very welcome below!

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