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Zero Punctuation review of The Cave from Yahtzee Croshaw

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Fair enough. Yahtzee doesn't mention the overall darkness in tone or nice graphics which I found fun, but he does bring some good points about depth of character content. In general it's starting to seem like DF isn't just making short games, but they're abandoning almost all of the dialogue depth of games like Psychonauts or Grim Fandango that people might be looking for. I mean honestly I'd give games like The Cave and Stacking a low score for skimping on dialogue that could have made them diamonds, although Costume Quest is a little bit better.

I just hope DF's focus doesn't continue to be mostly graphics, because it's cool and all but having more writers and good voice work are something a lot of people are hoping for too.

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I dunno, I really enjoyed the ambiance of The Cave, despite the lack of dialogue trees. For me, it really hearkened back to the heyday of classic adventures in a lot of ways... without most of the staples of the genre. I don't know if it was the twilight zone-esque setting, all the little quirky details... it's one of those games where I find I don't want to over-analyze my enjoyment of it too much, in fear it might slip away.

And now I must away, to have a good laugh with Yahtzee!

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I'd say it's probably down to a lack of time or budget. The Cave seems to the content they've been releasing recently and even though they might have written or concepted a lot more ideas theres just not enough time to take all of it to a highly polished doublefine standard.

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Dunno, a lot of his critics are valid.

I primary love The Cave for the art, the atmosphere, the stones&water;, certain level/cave design, for what it just is, although i know about all its limitations like, the soso humour, the disappointing ending, the too easy puzzles, the annoying must to replay the same areas over and over again, all its technical issues, a certain lack in narration/interaction. Nevertheless it's a cute little unique game, maybe a bit like a 8/16 bit game, with some of the design sins those games had too. It's not a perfect game but at least a game you care about.

Once it works and there's a DLC i'll replay it with joy.

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Dunno, a lot of his critics are valid.

I primary love The Cave for the art, the atmosphere, the stones&water;, certain level/cave design, for what it just is

@GrumpyGamer wasn't too impressed with the review obviously, but I too think that the criticism Yahtzee expressed is valid for the most part, if (as usually) a bit harsh.

I really enjoyed The Cave and wasn't really disappointed by a lack of challenging puzzles, thorough character drawing or witty dialogue.

I think it's a misunderstanding to blame it for not being a proper old-school adventure game; I guess it was never trying to. Still, as taumel stated, Yahtzee has a point and his criticism should be considered.

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I think it's a misunderstanding to blame it for not being a proper old-school adventure game; I guess it was never trying to

prerelease interviews suggest otherwise. ron gilbert practically got offended when people suggested it was anything other than a classic adventure game (albeit with platform controls), and kept insisting that it was designed with that in mind

to me it ended up being neither a great adventure game or a great puzzle platformer. as a mixture of the two it ends up being underwhelming in both areas

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I think repetition is the only flaw of the game. He's right about that, but he was too harsh (as usual).

My connection to Double Fine team (and Ron) is too strong to be that aggressive, especially after the bond we've been developing during the Amnesia Fortnight and Kickstarter. Doing original stuff means risking, and you cannot always go 100% victorious. ;-)

They should've associated the three now-mandatory areas of the game to three other characters, so you could've skipped those.

Anyway.

Except for the repetition, I disagree with Yahtzee: I had a lot of fun, and the story WAS there. It's not plot-driven or dialogue-heavy, but I enjoyed the overall message. Heck, the very presence of a message isn't something you get in games very often! :-P

Graphics and animations rocked; voices, music and sound were spot-on.

I respect Ron: he could just churn out a low resolution 2D old-style point-and-click adventure game with SCUMM verbs and relax.

He doesn't get lazy, I like that.

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I really don't think it was a good idea for Gilbert et al to push the idea that The Cave is an adventure game, particularly in such clearly exaggerated terms ("It's a straight adventure game."). Because if it's not really an adventure game then that begs the question of whether their insistence was down to some kind of ineptitude, wilful blindness or plain old shyster-ism.

In any case, I think it's ironic that DF should have pushed this as an adventure game, since Schafer has said in the past that he feels guilty about the possibility of Grim Fandango somehow contributing to the death of adventure games, and The Cave either gives the impression that adventure games aren't very good or that the best people at making them can't really make them any more.

Just waiting for Reds to be a bland disappointment so that I consider my childhood destroyed. Sob.

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The Cave either gives the impression that adventure games aren't very good or that the best people at making them can't really make them any more.

Well, but they aren't very good. I mean, I loved them more than anything else back then, but they're just artefacts of the past. All modern adventure games I've seen either stick to the old tropes and turn out really awkward, or streamline the whole thing and become pseudo-movies where the gaming part mostly gets in the way (cf. The Walking Dead). The format was born out of technological limitations and a certain player mindset; now that both are gone, the whole thing just struggles. I mean, there's a reason no one is writing Homeric epic poems any more – their time is over. It's telling that the best point-and-click adventure released in recent years is Portal 2 which is as far away removed from the established concept of an "adventure game" as you can get.

I do admire Ron Gilbert for trying to shake things up, and really, I think he's entitled to call The Cave an adventure game, because if it isn't that, well, what is it? And even though the whole thing is a bit of a failure, it's better to have tried and missed than not to have tried at all.

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I think you're right, to an extent, about adventure games not being so 'relevant' today, but I don't think you're entirely right. I mean, the classic Lucas Arts adventures are still great games, and people still play them (similarly, it's true that people don't write epic poetry as a rule but that doesn't detract from their worth as such or the legitimacy of people's interest in and admiration for Homer etc.). To this extent it's not impossible for adventure games to be good - and what really makes them good, as I've said many times, is the humour and dialogue. To my mind that's why most adventure games are tedious and uninteresting, because they absolutely have to be written well. And just as myself and others have been saying, more dialogue would have made The Cave 1) better and 2) much more of an adventure game.

That's what I find really baffling about The Cave - all the aspects in which it falls short are immediately and painfully obvious. And just as I said on release, and as Yahtzee says in his review, writing is what Gilbert et al are good at. It's their thing. So why is there so little of it in there?

I'm not sure about your last point, though - if The Cave isn't an adventure game, then it's a puzzle-platformer. Even then, though, I'm not saying it doesn't have adventure elements, or that it isn't an adventure game at all. That's another way of expressing a commonly cited problem; it doesn't commit to any clearly defined genre, and while this can sometimes makes works intriguing or fresh, it does a bad job with each of the genre-elements it selects, so ultimately it just feels a little mediocre.

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That's what I find really baffling about The Cave - all the aspects in which it falls short are immediately and painfully obvious. And just as I said on release, and as Yahtzee says in his review, writing is what Gilbert et al are good at. It's their thing. So why is there so little of it in there?

You and me both. I'm sure there was some rationale behind it, but it's been bugging me ever since I first fired up the game. But well, I can't remember a well-written Double Fine game since Psychonauts (haven't played Brütal Legend, though). Imaginative, yes. Well-written, not really. I'm hoping for Reds to change that.

I'm not sure about your last point, though - if The Cave isn't an adventure game, then it's a puzzle-platformer. Even then, though, I'm not saying it doesn't have adventure elements, or that it isn't an adventure game at all. That's another way of expressing a commonly cited problem; it doesn't commit to any clearly defined genre, and while this can sometimes makes works intriguing or fresh, it does a bad job with each of the genre-elements it selects, so ultimately it just feels a little mediocre.

Yeah, but RG was right in saying the platforming is sort of irrelevant. Because it's definitely not challenging (or wouldn't be, if it weren't for occasionally wonky controls); it's just the backdrop. I know it makes up for at least 75% of the game, but that's just time-wise. Not really content-wise. Navigating the Cave is a purely mechanical affair.

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I disagree. Adventure games could be great but they aren't because no one is making great ones (anymore).

Just because there are mostly half baked or even worse implementations around, doesn't mean that the genre sucks per se.

It takes resources and talent to do it right, which most developers lack. Plus, you can make more money easier with different types of games.

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I disagree. Adventure games could be great but they aren't because no one is making great ones (anymore).

That's exactly the point. The question is, why isn't anyone making great new ones any more (though there have been some exceptionally good efforts recently)? Is it because they can't or won't, or is it because the conditions have changed? I'd argue it's mostly the latter. The genre has always been standing on shaky legs, but they got even shakier as time went by.

How would we react to The Secret of Monkey Island were it released today for the first time? Because honestly, the game had lovely writing, but the puzzles could be pretty annoying. And insult swordfighting, hilarious and iconic as it is, involves some pretty tedious grinding, for example. Expectations are different now, and games age faster than any other art/media form. "Player gets stuck" is a condition modern gaming design tries to avoid, and for good reason – but it's precisely this premise that throws a great many adventure tropes right out of the window before you even begin. And honestly, as a gamer I don't think it's a bad principle at all.

(And Monkey would end up pretty well. Just try to imagine the critical backslash any Space Quest game would earn today, for example.)

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Most adventure games aren't great and often are over rated by a relative tiny fan base. Now as other genres got more and stronger the fallbacks of the released productions became more and more obvious. But as soon as you f.e. play a high quality scene/riddle/dialogue in an adventure you get an idea of how powerful and enjoyable this genre could be.

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Yeah, but RG was right in saying the platforming is sort of irrelevant. Because it's definitely not challenging (or wouldn't be, if it weren't for occasionally wonky controls); it's just the backdrop. I know it makes up for at least 75% of the game, but that's just time-wise. Not really content-wise. Navigating the Cave is a purely mechanical affair.

Naturally I agree with the two broader points at work here - a game needn't or shouldn't be defined or understood in terms of its non- or relatively non-salient aspects, and the prevalence of some aspect in a work is not a guarantee of that aspect's salience in the work as a whole. So the idea as Gilbert presented it was that yes there is platforming, you're running around and jumping all the time, but platforming was not, so to speak, a salient aspect of the game; platforming was not supposed to intrude on the experience of playing the game. So, in other words, your attention doesn't focus (directly) on the platforming and/or the feeling of running and jumping doesn't form a noticeable or important part of the gaming experience, even though you essentially play virtually the entire game while 'platforming'.

But while conceptually I have no difficulty in imagining a game which, though it is primarily (in terms of game time if not necessarily 'gaming experience') based on platforming mechanics, does not feel or seem like a platformer (even a puzzle platformer), what I disagree with is the idea that The Cave is such a game. I think this because it seems undeniable to me that platforming in fact does make for a salient aspect of The Cave. There are roughly two reasons for this: the (perhaps unintended) emphasis of space/distance and the simplicity of the puzzles.

The first reason is motivated by three factors: back-tracking, spikes and fall damage. There's a lot of inconvenient travel in The Cave. This was also true of adventure games, of course, though note that CMI for instance allowed you to double click to skip walking; this suggests that inconvenient/pointless travel was not considered desirable, where it virtually seems to have been deliberately implemented in The Cave. This in turn makes for the salience of spikes and fall damage - your environment kills you, in ways that occasionally lead to more backtracking. Coupled with the fact that you get a trophy/achievement for not dying, this makes the possibility of death-by-lack-of-coordination a real and present feeling while playing the game. In other words, it's something you notice and, to some extent, care about. And what's worse, it's something you notice with a hint of resentment, because it can be relatively easy to die because the controls handle terribly. Added to this, as I've said elsewhere, is the fact that a lot of the (worst and most trivial) puzzles involve pushing blocks around as aids to jumping or whatever. So platforming intrudes on your experience of playing the game, and in a negative way.

The puzzles, on the other hand, are often quite weak (the Hillbilly area is a noteworthy exception, although even here they felt good as a mildly tricky opener to what then turns out to be a disappointingly easy game). Coupled with the lack of dialogue, characterisation and/or the ability to 'look at' things, this means the adventure part of The Cave is quite muted. So overall I don't think it's fair to say that platforming doesn't make a contribution to 'the content' of the game; there's too much of it where also the 'platformness' is an important part of the puzzle/game/what you're doing, and the adventure/puzzle side of things doesn't do enough to outshine the imprecise, floaty, ladder-sticking platforming aspect of the game.

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I really don't think it was a good idea for Gilbert et al to push the idea that The Cave is an adventure game, particularly in such clearly exaggerated terms ("It's a straight adventure game."). Because if it's not really an adventure game then that begs the question of whether their insistence was down to some kind of ineptitude, wilful blindness or plain old shyster-ism.

In any case, I think it's ironic that DF should have pushed this as an adventure game, since Schafer has said in the past that he feels guilty about the possibility of Grim Fandango somehow contributing to the death of adventure games, and The Cave either gives the impression that adventure games aren't very good or that the best people at making them can't really make them any more.

Just waiting for Reds to be a bland disappointment so that I consider my childhood destroyed. Sob.

If Ron Gilbert says he thinks this is an adventure game, its pretty dickish of you to assume he's lying,whether you agree with him or not. I honestly don't know where you're shitty attitude is coming from. Everything I've seen of The Cave looks pretty good. Not the greatest game ever by any means, but pretty good none the less.

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If Ron Gilbert says he thinks this is an adventure game, its pretty dickish of you to assume he's lying,whether you agree with him or not.

I'm sorry to have riled you, but I don't think I'm assuming he's lying. I suggest three possibilities in the quote you provide, without committing to any of them. Even 'shysterism' suggests to me more a sort of cynical distortion or exaggeration for the sake of marketing than outright lying. Why would I call him a liar?

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If Ron Gilbert says he thinks this is an adventure game, its pretty dickish of you to assume he's lying,whether you agree with him or not.

I'm sorry to have riled you, but I don't think I'm assuming he's lying. I suggest three possibilities in the quote you provide, without committing to any of them. Even 'shysterism' suggests to me more a sort of cynical distortion or exaggeration for the sake of marketing than outright lying. Why would I call him a liar?

Oh so you just think he's a sellout? That makes it soooooo much better.

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I agree with him. I really liked the game, but I was expecting much more, and replaying it over and over to see all the endings is a bit of a pain after a while.

The platforming can get boring, especially in two cases: in the Miner's stage you have to basically reach the bottom and then go back to the top with at least two characters (and if you didn't bring the right item from the bottom you have more walking to do), and in the Island stage when you reach a specific point usually your other two characters will warp to your position, which means you'll have to go back to the other side with at least one of them.

And to make things worse: I know probably many of you don't care about the achievements, and usually I don't either, but after finding so many hidden details in Psychonauts thanks to the hints give by the achievements I decided to make an exception for the games by Double Fine.

Well, two of the achievements require you to have every character perform a specific action in the Hillbilly's stage, and unless you're lucky (or you cheat) you have to bring two of those characters in the stage once more to do yet another thing.

Not to mention, I got confused in guessing what you actually had to do to unlock the achievement, because I thought it referred to a puzzle in the Monk's stage.

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