The Cave is the latest project by legendary funny man and game designer, Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Studios. It’s a puzzler/platformer/adventure game, full of Gilbert’s trademark humor and puzzle design philosophy. I was lucky enough to sit in on a closed-door demo of the game hosted by Gilbert himself, and I can safely say Double Fine has something unique on their hands.
The Cave tells a story about, well, a Cave. It isn’t just any cave, though – the Cave is a sentient being that has existed for thousands of years. It even speaks to you in a deep, sultry voice. Adventurers have been coming to the Cave for thousands of years, each seeking what their heart desires most. In The Cave, you’ve got 7 characters to choose from – the monk, the pilot, the hillbilly, the scientist, the twins, the knight, and the time traveller. Each of them has their own reasons for coming to the Cave, and those reasons will be explored as you play, but more on that later.
You’ll choose any three characters to play at one time, and for the purposes of the demo, the hillbilly, the knight, and the scientist were chosen. You can switch between the three of them on the fly, and you’ll need to do a fair amount of that in order to succeed. One basic scenario showed a door operated by two levers. Once both have been pulled, the third character can pass through the open door to pull another lever, which locks the door in place, thereby providing passage for the other two characters.
The major puzzles are considerably more complex than the door example, and follow a strange sort of point and click style logic that fans of that genre should be well familiar with. A much more involving example has the players attempting to clear a monster out of their way. The sequence involves finding a bucket and filling it with water, then using that water to hydrate a hot dog vending machine which, in turn, produces a hot dog, which the player can then use to lure the monster from its lair, distracting it long enough to grab it with a mechanical claw arm and lift it out of the way. Sound insane and illogical? It is. But it’s what Ron Gilbert’s fans have come to expect from him.
As I mentioned earlier, every character has their own story and their own reasons for journeying into the Cave. The next example that was demoed took place in a large castle as part of the knight’s specific storyline. For reasons currently unknown, the knight needs a particular amulet, but it’s being worn by the castle’s resident princess. Oh, and there’s a dragon down in the dungeon.
In an attempt to impress the princess and get her to drop her amulet, the knight, the hillbilly, and the scientist ventured down into the dungeon to snatch some of the dragon’s gold. The knight had to drop a long distance to get there, but thanks to his Guardian Angel ability which grants the knight invulnerability, he landed gracefully. Each character will have a special ability, but only the knight’s was actually detailed. To steal the gold, the knight stood in front of the dragon with his Guardian Angel ability active, distracting the dragon as it breathed its fire at him. Meanwhile, the scientist sneaked around the back way and grabbed the gold. The dragon was not fooled, however, and ran rampant through the castle, eventually eating the princess herself. Fortunately, the dragon spit out the amulet, so, job well done?
The Cave will also feature drop-in-drop-out cooperative play for up to three people. The way it was described is that the camera will follow whichever character is performing the most important task at the time. It will decide intelligently and on the fly who it needs to focus on, and though this feature wasn’t actually demonstrated, it sounds like an interesting sort of asynchronous co-op experience.
When the demo ended, there was a short Q&A session with Gilbert, and I simply had to shake the man’s hand for his past work and for the great work he’s currently doing on The Cave. It looks sharp, the style is cartoonish and whimsical, and its design looks and sounds very interesting indeed. Neither a release date or specific platforms were discussed, but it’s a game well worth keeping an eye on when it launches. It may just be my favorite game I’ve seen at E3 so far.