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The Cave

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Caved in

Product: Ron Gilbert's The Cave | Developer: Double Fine | Publisher: Sega | Format: iPhone | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Ron Gilbert's The Cave iPhone, thumbnail 1
Casting the perfect hero for your point-and-click adventure can be hard. Do you go for a sharp wit like George Stobbart, a cartoon buffoon like Guybrush Threepwood, or a sarcastic joker like Simon the Sorcerer?

For The Cave, Monkey Island mastermind Ron Gilbert had to come up with not one protagonist, but seven. His extended cast includes a dopey knight, a ruthless archeologist, a pair of The Shining-style twins, a noble monk, and a time traveller.

Okay, so they don't exactly have individual personalities, and they have no real dialogue. But they do each have collectible backstories, a unique location, and even a special ability - like being able to breathe underwater or hack computers.

Going underground

You get to choose three of these characters and make them the stars of Gilbert's latest adventure. It's more of a puzzle-platformer than a point-and-click adventure, but you'll recognise the puzzles from the ex-LucasArt developer's back catalogue.

Think picking up random items, fulfilling the requests of needy characters, and overcoming obstacles with your brains rather than your brawn.

They are, quite often, very basic and straightforward puzzles. There are few items to use, hardly any characters to talk to, and only a handful of props to fiddle with. Which means the solution is often right in front of your nose.

Having multiple characters obviously allows for puzzles that need more than one pair of hands to solve. One character might have to distract a dragon, while another sneaks up from behind. But there are no truly ingenious or surprising conundrums that really warrant having three people.

Down down deeper and down

You can also cheat at certain sections. You might use the time-traveller's phase ability to skip through locked doors or exploit the twin's doppelgänger power to bypass a lever puzzle. If nothing else, it's a good way to skip the boring bits when (or, more likely, "if") you come to play through The Cave again.

To experience everything the game has to offer, you see, you need to play through at least three times.

Some of the underground complex is the same every time, but certain sections are unique to certain characters, so if you want to see a creepy Victorian mansion you need the twins on your team, and if you want to unearth an Egyptian sarcophagus you'll want the adventurer.

While the puzzles are often quite easy to figure out, actually carrying out the solutions can be tricky.

For one thing, the relevant hotspots are dotted around quite large areas, which means each hero has to traipse a considerable distance to get into position. Multiply that pointless travel time by three and it quickly becomes a serious pain in the rump.

And that's not to mention the wretched touchscreen controls on this dodgy iOS port, which make climbing ladders, leaping over pits, and picking up items a complete chore. On the tiny iPhone screen especially, every platforming section is a source of frustration.

The port also suffers from various performance issues. Heroes momentarily get stuck in the floor, lighting changes erratically, sound files play on a delay, and there are frequent frame-rate hiccups.

Underground overground

The Cave's humour mostly comes from sight gags and physical comedy.

There are some characters, sure, but their not-so-subtle dialogue means they act more like talking hint systems. And the cave itself talks, but his snarky tone is grating, his self-aware comments fall flat, and his gags are simply never as sharp or witty as those old LucasArts favourites.

With its three-man puzzles, intriguing setting, and veteran writer/designer, The Cave might have been a worthwhile puzzle-platformer. But its weak humour, simplistic solutions, endless backtracking and fussy touchscreen controls mean you probably won't play it a second time (let alone a third).

And - coming from the man who made Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion - it's especially disappointing.
The Cave
Reviewer photo
Mark Brown | 3 October 2013
The Cave is a really disappointing adventure. It's not very funny, not very clever, and those finicky touchscreen controls are a regular source of frustration
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