Double Fine and Ron Gilbert have teased us with pictures, concept art, and ominous imagery for months on end, but at long last, The Cave has finally been revealed. It’s not just the place of their new downloadable adventure, either—it’s also a main character.
“This idea’s been percolating around in my head for many, many years, before Maniac Mansion,” Gilbert told select members of the gaming press at a recent special event in Double Fine’s San Francisco offices. “In some ways, it really gets down to the core of why I like adventure games.”
When Gilbert let Double Fine president and CEO Tim Schafer in on the idea, a partnership with the company—and his former LucasArts colleague—seemed like the natural idea. So far, it looks like the duo’s produced a fantastic adventure.
Whatever “The Cave” is, it’s been around for hundreds of thousands of years—and can grant people their deepest desire. It attracts many strangers from different places, walks of life, and even moments in time, with each pilgrim seeking something that only The Cave can give them.
If you want to call The Cave a spiritual successor to Maniac Mansion, you probably could, as it follows many similar conventions. Many of the rooms are filled with complex puzzles that require teamwork to solve, with levers, traps, odd machinery, and lots of useful items playing a part in defeating monsters or unlocking sealed doors. Each member of the cast also has special skills that will help them navigate through The Cave’s dangerous chambers, and for The Cave’s part, he/she/it wants to help them succeed.
At the start, players can choose a team of three out of the seven main characters, each of whom are seeking out the titular cavern for their own goals:
- The Monk (male) is searching for his long-lost master on a journey of enlightenment.
- The Adventurer (female) is an Amelia Earhart lookalike who’s looking for her two lost companions and some ancient treasure.
- The Hillbilly (male) seeks true love.
- The Scientist (female) is on the verge of a great discovery that may benefit all of mankind.
- The Horrible Twins are looking for their missing parents.
- The Brave Knight (male) is seeking a sword of unimaginable power.
- The Time Traveler (female) wishes to undo a mysterious wrong “a million years in the making.”
In our guided demo, we saw some puzzle-solving demonstrated by the team of the Hillbilly, the Scientist, and the Brave Knight, as they tried to cross a pit guarded by a monster. Simply approaching the massive beast resulted in instant death (don’t fear—The Cave automatically resurrects anyone who dies), so the three characters had to explore the surrounding environment to find the tools needed to get through.
In this case, the Scientist used a bucket of water to activate a hot dog vending machine, taking a giant meaty weenie to use as bait. Meanwhile, the Hillbilly headed a few floors up and found a claw machine that could drag the monster out of the way. In a coordinated effort, the Scientist laid the bait over the pit, the Brave Knight rang a nearby bell to catch the monster’s attention, and at the right moment, the Hillbilly used the claw machine to snatch the beast up out of the air.
During this exchange, the game featured seamless drop-in, drop-out gameplay as two players alternated between the three characters. Up to three players can control the characters locally, and The Cave has a system that will dynamically shift control to whoever’s onscreen at the time.
Of course, not every puzzle wraps up as tidily as our first example—when Gilbert later showed us a puzzle that required stealing gold from a dragon to win the heart of a princess, leaving a locked gate open resulted in the dragon rampaging through The Cave, butchering dozens of offscreen innocents. It even ate the princess (quite gruesomely), but luckily stuck around long enough to spit out a special amulet that the Brave Knight needed to solve a puzzle.
Based on what we’ve seen, The Cave looks like an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek romp through a stylishly designed environment where thinking outside the box will be critical. Double Fine and Sega will be launching it on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC for download early in 2013, but we’ll surely see some more of the game before then.