I had read a handful of less-than-enthusiastic reviews before deciding to give the guys responsible for some of my all-time favorite videogame franchises the benefit of the doubt. Especially considering that they could’ve priced this well above $15 and still moved plenty of units based on reputation alone.
I didn’t realize The Telegraph even wrote video-game reviews… but I hopped on over and read the column in question. A major complaint of theirs is that the platforming controls aren’t utilized for complicated platform-based challenges. In my original post, I complimented the streamlined control system. It feels much more natural than the old point-and-click SCUMM system. It allows for a fluidity of movement not typical of adventure games. Complaining that the game isn’t part of a genre that the reviewer was anticipating seems like a hurdle that can be overcome. Hell, The Cave is also not a fighting game nor a WWII first-person shooter. But I can get over that.
The Telegraph also bemoans the excess of “to-ing and fro-ing” (wow, these guys ARE British!) that results from a lack of a traditional inventory system. But the levels aren’t big: most can be traveled from end to end in a matter of seconds. Implementing the slightest bit of strategy when deploying your three characters throughout the map (and keeping tabs on the single item each one is carrying) is the obvious and intuitive answer. When advancing to new levels, the characters that aren’t being human-controlled at that moment are automatically whisked to the beginning of a new set of puzzles–items still in tow.
The part of the Telegraph review that I agree with is that the puzzles could’ve been a bit more complex. Allowing for common areas to be solved in multiple ways by ANY combination of the seven characters makes finding a solution pretty easy. The lack of a true inventory system is also a limiting factor when it comes to truly challenging puzzles. However, as I mentioned in my original post, the new system also relieves the player of esoteric solutions–which, in the old days, were often found simply by mashing every inventory item with the puzzle at hand until something clicks. Many of The Cave’s puzzles are more akin to The Incredible Machine than Maniac Mansion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing–though it’s not what people expected, and I think that affected the game’s rating in many reviews.
Anyway, that’s my take on it. I’ll probably start (and complete) my second play-through tonight using new characters. If anyone can spare the $15, I think it’s worth it. I’d also recommend sticking with the PC version–as it was intended. You can switch on-the-fly between direct gamepad-style controls or a mouse-centric setup. I also haven’t experienced any slowdowns whatsoever (evidently a problem on the console ports).