Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Cave

The Seven
"I have a really interesting story to tell you this evening. So pay attention. It's a story of seven people and a glimpse into a dark place in each of their hearts.

But be careful before you judge, there is a dark place in your heart as well. Someday you will find yourself descending my depths in search of what you desire, and you might not like what you find either.

But enough about you. This is about them."
- The Cave

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote that when one gazes into the abyss for long enough, they would find it staring back into them. Variations of this idea have resonated throughout a lot of mediums over the decades, from novels to comic books to movies that imply that a dark and terrible side exists within every person. I guess there must be some truth to this, given the popularity of a concept that is as old as mankind itself.

Such is the theme behind Ron Gilbert's The Cave, a platformer-puzzler set in a similar vein to another one of his oldest point-and-click adventure games - Maniac Mansion. The similarities, however, end at the genre because unlike his 1987 classic, The Cave is a dark comedy narrated by the titular Cave, a sentient being that claims to have the ability to show its explorers the deepest desires of their hearts.

From a pool of seven playable characters, with each one harboring their own personal motives for braving the ominous cavern, the player chooses a party of three per playthrough to enter the Cave and uncover its secrets. Together they must cooperatively traverse the labyrinthine depths of the Cave, lending their unique abilities to solve puzzles and defeat the trials set before them.

For a game with such alluring visuals, The Cave is a surprisingly dark game. Each one of the seven characters seem to have a sentence to serve for previous sins, and the supernatural caverns act as their purgatory (or in some cases, their personal hells). With the Cave being the sole narrator of the game, each character has a personal section that echoes the reasons for their journey. Furthermore, cave paintings are scattered throughout the playthrough which help flesh out each character's backstories, and I'd recommend finding them all to enhance what little, albeit effective, storytelling that the writers of the game have employed.

I highly recommend this game, most especially for its unusual stories. There is no moral ambiguity in this title. Instead, players are offered a glimpse straight into the dark side of humanity and are given the chance to reflect on what it may mean for themselves.

I got my copy via the Humble Mobile Bundle 5, which expires a week after this article is published. I'd recommend this method because Bundles are always worth it given the premium quality of the games that they offer (and you'll also help indie developers and charities to boot).

Otherwise, the game is also available on Google Play.

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