The world was in receipt of a surprising and rather pleasant announcement a few weeks ago, as Double Fine revealed it was in the development phase of another adventure game by veteran producer Ron Gilbert; the man responsible for the critically acclaimed Monkey Island franchise.
What made this even more curious is that it's being developed alongside the Kickstarter-funded point and click game entitled Double Fine Adventure, also co-helmed by Gilbert and adventure game veteran Tim Schafer. Who said that the adventure genre was dead?
What sets The Cave apart from other adventuring titles is its side-scrolling presentation. As Hansen was quick to admit, this is Gilbert's stab at making a contemporary and relevant adventure game, which may appear counter-intuitive on the surface. There are just a few simple controls to move, jump and pick items up. There is no inventory system to worry about as players can only hold one item at a time, which admittedly looks to be the basis of several puzzles. It's safe in this case to equate contemporariness with accessibility, potentially to casual and mobile gamers alike.
This dimensional limitation also results in a game that is entirely devoid of load times or level changes, which allows for a fresh take on both the platformer and adventure genres.
To set up the action, gamers are presented initially with seven characters with seven distinct goals: The enlightenment seeking Monk, the dodgy Hill-billy, the world-changing Scientist, the power-seeking Knight, the lost (and completely horrifying) Twins and the apocalypse-preventing Time Traveller. Characters each have their own special abilities as well, one of which we saw presented was the Knight's "Guardian Angel", which allows him to avoid taking damage. This is particularly useful for big falls and marauding enemies.
Players pick three out of the seven characters for the entirety of the game, so a lot of the content ends up being skipped. Although the central game remains the same, an example of an area accessible to only one character was shown: the Knight's castle. The flip side of this is the game is good for at least two playthroughs with new characters, a factor backed up by Hansen revealing that the scientist also has a laboratory that is otherwise inaccessible to anyone else in the game. This leaves the theoretical third playthrough for gamers to revisit some other characters.
Throughout the game, players switch between members of their party to solve different puzzles and use their various different unique abilities, which is pleasantly reminiscent of the party system of 1993’s Day of the Tentacle, a game that Gilbert was intimately involved in.
Double Fine also announced local co-op for the game. It's essentially the same game, as players will be switching off characters between each other, so nobody will be stuck with single player the entire time.
Along with the single-plane nature of the side-scroller, the developer has been given an opportunity to chew the scenery on graphics. The rendered art style may not be endear itself to the especially die-hard point and click purist, but it appears perfectly appropriate and distinctive, as well as being much more aligned with early LucasArts and Double Fine productions, even more so than recent Double Fine downloadable titles.
Having pointed this out to Hansen however, he advised that the development team was mainly inspired by the eclectic nature of the collector vinyl toy scene, upon select look this does indeed ring true.
Most importantly, the humour of Double Fine and Gilbert remains fully intact. The game is peppered with gags referring to genre fiction and other gaming tropes, and above all else is witty. Funniest of all, The Cave itself is also a character in the game, even offering narration at the beginning of the demo. Hansen stated this will be carried throughout.
The Cave is looking incredibly solid, and will clearly cater to old-school point and click adventure gamers and fans of Double Fine alike.