Review: The Cave (Wii U Download)

the_caveDeveloper: Double Fine
Publisher: SEGA
Review Platform: Wii U (eShop)
Also Available on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: 23/01/13
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Players: 1-3 (local)
Price: £9.99
File Size: 1374MB
PEGI: 12

Review

The Cave is an interesting experience, to say the least. It’s filled with character, variety, and mind-bending puzzles; and offers a truly unique experience. If there’s one more thing that this game needed, though, it’s extra development time.

Before you get into the action, you must choose three of seven characters to take with you on your adventure, with each one boasting his/her own special ability. This means that, if you want to see everything that this game has to offer, you’ll need to play it through no less than three times, as certain areas are only accessible when a specific character is in your party. It’s hard to explain how each puzzle works whilst also avoiding spoilers, but rest assured that you’ll receive multiple brain workouts during a single playthrough; although the fact that each puzzle generally follows the same formula – find someone that wants an item, search for item, return with item – means that the game perhaps won’t click with everyone.

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The game’s story is narrated by the cave in which you’re exploring. Who knows how or why this cave has been given the gift of speech, but the voice acting is superb, and the dialogue witty. With a dark sense of humour, this cave made us crack a grin more than a few times. Meanwhile, each character has his/her own backstory, which is told through a series of cave paintings. To an extent, these act as rewards for exploring off the beaten track; although in all honesty, they’re often poorly-hidden, and the game world – between each uniquely themed puzzle area – is very much linear to the extent that it’s obvious padding between the good parts, serving the sole purpose of artificially extending the game.

Its length is also something of a concern – at just shy of £10, a single playthrough will last you no more than six hours. Granted, there’s plenty of replay value in trying out different combinations of characters, but this doesn’t mean that each playthrough is unique. Whilst some areas are indeed exclusive to a certain character, a couple recur regardless of your chosen trio, offering less motivation to actually go back and play the levels you missed the first time around; and that’s if you’re the type of person to actually bother with playing the game more than once.

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And despite its length, The Cave isn’t without its fair share of glitches and bugs. Most noticeable is a severe drop in framerate whenever the game autosaves – which isn’t an irregular feature. Each time you leave or enter an area, or solve a puzzle, your gameplay will grind to a near-halt for a matter of seconds – and this becomes much more than just a minor niggle when it happens so often. It’s not like the game is hugely detailed, after all. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by Trine 2, but the environments are often dull and repetitive; although with that said, art is subjective, and some might say that this game’s art style holds a lot of charm. What’s not so charming, though, is falling through the environment and endlessly dropping until you quit your current game and re-load the save file.

Co-op, meanwhile, is sadly poorly executed. The camera locks onto one player and follows them until another player takes control of the camera. This means sticking together, or waiting for the other player(s) to catch up after they’ve fallen behind, or taken the initiative to explore a little. On other platforms, this is somewhat excusable; on Wii U, with one player having their own screen, it’s incredibly frustrating for the GamePad user to be bound by these constraints, while this innovative new controller’s touch screen is used merely to switch characters.

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Overall, The Cave’s heart is in the right place: it tries to be ambitious, but too many aspects of the overall game let it down – and that’s a real shame. There’s still fun to be had with this game’s puzzles, just don’t expect a highly polished experience. Downloading the demo from the eShop is recommended, though, and if you like how that’s turned out, chances are you’ll get along with the full game.

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Many thanks to SEGA for providing us with a review code.
The Cave is available to download now via the Nintendo eShop for Wii U.

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