Thursday, October 17, 2013

Disappointing Discoveries in 'The Cave'

Image from PopMatters
This week I channel my inner Andy Rooney and talk about disappointing discoveries in The Cave.

I'm not sure it ever comes across, but I don't really like writing negative columns. There are so many great games these days that I find my time is usually better spent dwelling on the positive things. Additionally, I know how hard it is to make a make a game (even a bad one) and that designers usually know whether or not a particular title is a winner. Unless there's something overtly offensive, I'm more inclined to let an unremarkable game fade into obscurity.

That whole preamble is mainly to justify my sharp words about The Cave. I'm normally an unabashed fan of anything Double Fine puts out, but questionable decisions pervade throughout the game. The core conceit, an adventure game where you directly control the characters, is novel but actually serves to illustrate why point and click adventure games were a good idea in the first place: the platforming isn't the point. Uninteresting obstacles and meaningless death make it seem like busy work meant to fill time between puzzles.

However, the biggest disappointment comes on the technical side. I played it on iOS and soon realized that The Cave is a port of a game clearly designed for a controller, or at the very least a physical keyboard. The dragging and swiping gestures are nowhere near precise enough for platforming and even seem to have trouble differentiating between a tap to pick something up and a quick swipe to jump. This results in repetitive deaths and sloppy, imprecise character movement. Additionally, the game hitches and drops frames quite often, despite the fact that I have the most recent version of the iPad.

The sad part is that all this seems so avoidable. Spend more time optimizing or implement an on-screen control pad; others have proven if can be done, so why not do it? Any answer I can think of: they were pressed for time, they ran out of money, or they simply didn't care are all equally depressing. Double Fine has built up a reputation of caring about the people who do the right thing both for their team and their players, and it just doesn't come through in the iOS version of The Cave.


  1. I've not played The Cave but I have played a few adventure/platformer hybrids. All of them have that same problem of the two genres getting in the way of each other. Games like Cosmic Spacehead and Insecticide* both have audible clunks when the gameplay changes. The closest I've seen to it working, in terms of integration at least, are the Dizzy games but even then I never play them without infinite lives on. So, I guess I'm saying it's nothing new.

    *Go play Insecticide :)

  2. Designed by former Lucas Arts folks, eh? That's what I like to hear.