If I had to travel a perilous cave I would probably not have chosen these characters to accompany me. But Ron Gilbert would, and did.
If you haven’t been living in a cave yourself the last year you should have heard of The Cave. It is available on all consoles, and I have been playing it on the Wii U, Xbox 360 and PS3. It is none other than Ron Gilbert of Monkey Island fame that is the brain behind it, and it shows. The same kind of highly illogical puzzles combined with a tongue in cheek humour that made the Monkey Island series so great have been mixed with some basic platforming antics.
When I first started playing the game on console it took me a while to realise that the platforming is just another setting for the puzzles, and by no means the platforming is the star. It is just a way to travel from puzzle to puzzle, and only there is only need for the occasional timed jump to complete a puzzle. This is important to get to grips with, as the characters move fast, and are quite agile whereas the game is really quite slow to progress.
You start the game by selecting three characters from perhaps the most unique collection of heroes. Out of the eight you can select from there is a Time Traveller, Hillbilly and Monk to name a few. Depending on whom you choose to enter the Cave with you get a different take on the story, and puzzles. This gives the game variation, and quite a lot of reason to replay using different characters. All of them have different special abilities that have to be utilised at one time or another.
Puzzles usually involve pulling levers, carrying items to the right spot and managing your team to get the right person to the right puzzle. A character can only carry one item, and it is important to remember where you dropped what. On iOS you only get to play the game by yourself whereas on console there is a quite weird coop mode available. I can’t say I miss the coop mode that drove me, and my wife nuts as there is no split screen and near impossible to keep track of items when two people drop them somewhere in the cave.
At times you also have to actually do some platforming jumping over spiky holes, avoiding guards or just traveling the obstacles in the cave. This is where the game starts to falter, and the touch screen controls get inadequate. There is no keypad, or virtual joystick to use: only swipes, and touches. To move you touch in the direction you want to go, and to jump you swipe diagonally upwards in the direction you want to jump. This is quite finicky, and too often I miss getting to platforms, and fall off ladders. To interact with objects you touch them, and this is also quite imprecise feeling a bit hit and miss. The special character ability is initiated by touching the small character icon at the bottom, and this is also a bit hard to get to. Overall the controls are a bit of a let-down, and the one thing really holding the game back.
When it comes to presentation the game looks quite good with nice shadows, and special effects when using abilities. It is slightly scaled down when it comes to depth, and detail compared to the console versions, but still a great looker on iOS. Playing on the iPhone 5S I have had no issues with framerate slowdowns, but on the iPad Mini I have had the game stutter on me quite a lot.
My favourite part of the game is the narrator who keeps the game humorous with tongue in cheek comments, and Monkey Island doesn´t seem far away. The music, and sound effects are ok just like on console.
The Cave on iOS combines clever puzzles, excellent humour and nice presentation with some at times frustrating controls making just travelling frustrating. If you can get to terms with the controls though you are in for a treat with one of the most fun puzzle games on iOS.