Imagine if a cave was a living entity with stories to tell of the adventures that occured within. That’s the case in the game The Cave, which comes from Double Fine productions, and is ported to iOS thanks to Sega. There’s an ornate mystery to unravel as you dive into the depths of The Cave while playing through a puzzle adventure. What makes the game truly stand-out is a unique set-up that presents seven different story lines to play through. To begin an adventure, you get to pick three of a potential seven characters, and each one has their own story to tell. In fact, there are unique environments for each character so the knight has a castle realm to battle in, while the monk deals with a monastery, and the hillbilly goes through a carnival.
All three characters that you choose are with you the entire time, and you can freely switch between them with icons in the bottom left. All of the action is controlled with a tap based interface that isn’t as intuitive as it could be. The game lacks any form of tutorial, and instead you need to just experiment with what works. It turns out that the best method of control is to tap and hold on either side of the screen to move in that direction, and tap on where you want to jump. Trying to swipe to jump, or slide to change directions just leads to extreme frustration. With all interactions based on tapping, you can’t do anything that quickly, and sometimes your actions can be overlapped. For instance, trying to tap to interact with an item can be confused with tapping to move, and vice versa. Once you figure out the proper control, you’re still left with a system that isn’t the best in the quick action sequences that the game has.
There’s no doubt that the touch controls can get in the way of the overall enjoyment of the game, but there’s more than enough enjoyment to put up with the control scheme. The game features a deluxe storyline that is packed with humor as the cave itself narrates amusing little tidbits of the progression. Also, each character has their own mysterious storyline that you uncover bit by bit with little areas in the environment. There’s just so much to keep you going forward, and then there’s the great replay factor of trying out three different characters for unique story lines, and environments. The experience is presented with 2.5D graphics where the backgrounds, and characters are rendered in 3D, and movement is performed in 2D.
The puzzles are the ultimate highlight as every section of The Cave presents you with a unique challenge that is all about figuring out how things go together. You will need to use all three characters together to forge a path forwards through each creative scenario. There are numerous stretches that can leave you stumped, especially since the game offers no hints, clues, or feedback. One surprising inclusion is special abilities for each character, that can be key to certain puzzles, but are tough to pull off since they require quick timing, which is hard with the control scheme. Another problem is that it can be frustrating, and tedious to move through the same exact stretches three times as you position your three characters.
The Cave ($4.99, Universal) has a lot in store to create a worthwhile experience that is dragged down by a subpar control scheme, and odd gameplay balance. It’s still worth picking up for such an engaging, and lengthy puzzle adventure.