The Kickstarted Double Fine Adventure isn't the only concoction Tim Schafer's studio has brewing. Well before the internet went crazy over the company's campaign to raise money for a point-and-click adventure, Double Fine hired industry vet Ron Gilbert to make a game based on an idea that he claims pre-dates even the zany 1987 classic Maniac Mansion.
It's called The Cave, and we recently had a chance to hear the creator explain exactly what this mysterious twenty-year old concept was. An adventure game, though not of the point-and-click variety, The Cave appears to be a decidedly old school experience. Players will begin their quest by choosing three characters from a cast of seven (including a monk, an adventurer, a hillbilly, a scientist, a pair of twins, a knight, and a time traveler) and delving into a talking cave. Yes, the cave talks – our demo kicked off with the titular narrator’s sultry, mysterious voice introducing the characters and himself. Gilbert said that the titular character/geological formation will pipe in from time to time, though it doesn't sound like we'll be hearing him as much as we heard Bastion's narrator.
And that's because the Cave is definitely a character in its own right. We got a LOST vibe when Ron Gilbert described it as a place that "People learn something about themselves; about who they might become."
Once inside the cave, we saw what the gameplay actually looked like - and, truth be told, it was very different from what we expected. At face value, it appeared similar to a game like LittleBigPlanet – players can hop around, drag things, pick stuff up, and interact with different objects in the environment, just as they could in Media Molecule's platformer. Where it breaks off from others in that casual-platforming genre is in the ability to swap between characters to solve different puzzles, like having one hold open a door for another while the third stands on a switch. It's through this mechanic that The Cave meanders into the adventure genre (there's multiplayer, but it's strictly local and only when characters are on the screen at the same time, so it's use is extremely limited).
Swapping control of different characters is a major part of the gameplay, and vital to solving some of the puzzles. We saw two examples of The Cave utilizing adventure elements and changing between characters in order to progress the game. The first was fairly basic: the hillbilly needed to get through a door, but was blocked by a monster that would immediately jump in the way and slaughter him. He’d respawn, since the Cave actually wants them to succeed in order to “explore the dark spot in their soul [cue the LOST smoke monster noise],” but there was no easy way to get past the beast. Some exploration revealed a large, mechanical crane above a pit near the monster; after using a bucket of water on a hotdog vending machine (to boil the hotdogs, obviously) and ringing a bell nearby, the trio was able to work together to lure the monster, trap it in the spot, and defeat it with the crane.
The second puzzle was a bit more complex, and did a good job of showing off how the different characters play. While they all have the same basic abilities, each has their own story, and each has its own special ability. The knight, for example, is on a quest to find a powerful sword, which brings him (and the entire party) to a castle located within the cave. Here, he was met by a princess who possessed an amulet he wanted to obtain. In order to get her to fork it over, he decided the best course of action was to steal gold from a local dragon. The task was easier said than done when the dragon, like the monster we saw earlier, met any opponents with a quick attack and a quicker death.
To defeat him, he sent the scientist to the other side of the dragon’s lair, where a large door could be opened with a key. The knight walked up to the dragon and used his Guardian Angel ability, which makes him temporarily invulnerable, and was able to distract the beast for long enough to allow the scientist to sneak in from behind to steal the gold. On the way out, she ignored the “Please close the door” sign and began to climb up platforms, heading towards the princess’s room.
Along the way the screams of townspeople could be heard, amidst the roars of an angry, hungry dragon. “What idiot didn’t close the door!” a voice yelled, and we burst into laughter. Double Fine’s signature humor was prominent throughout the demo, and we found ourselves laughing again when the princess’s quarters had already been invaded by the red dragon, who was just finishing up his feast when the scientist arrived. After he swallowed the princess whole, he coughed up the amulet and left... so, happy ending, right?
The Cave was unlike anything we've seen thus far from Double Fine, though that seems to be the norm from the company at this point. It certainly has a Maniac Mansion vibe - but it's married with modern-day sensibilities so nicely that it's accessible to rookie adventure gamers. We can't wait to see more, and to hopefully go hands-on with it before it releases for the XBLA, PSN, and PC in early 2013.