Ron Gilbert, the man behind such classics as Maniac Mansion and the early Monkey Island games, is rediscovering why he loves adventure games. For him, it's all about teamwork and the joy of collaborative problem solving. His previous works have certainly featured some unique challenges to overcome, so with his latest project, Gilbert is focusing on the collaborative aspect. The Cave is a 2D puzzle platformer with a focus on teamwork between a three-person party. We recently got our first look at the game, and you can find all the early details below.
So, what do a monk, a hillbilly, a time traveler, a knight, a scientist, an adventurer, and a pair of twins have in common? They're all on a quest of personal discovery that has led them to the cave. Each has his or her own unique ability that will change how you approach the trials below. For instance, the hillbilly can hold his breath indefinitely, while the knight can shield himself from harm. At the start of the game you will select three heroes to take below, and for our hands-off demonstration, the knight, the hillbilly, and the scientist were on deck.
Once inside the cave, it was obvious that while this may be an adventure game, it was not of the point-and-click variety. Characters moved in real time as they would in any 2D platformer. As the hillbilly, the first objective was to get past a simple door. Pulling a nearby lever opened the door a little bit, but not enough to pass through. While the hillbilly kept hold on the lever, the player switched to the scientist character, who quickly discovered another lever. With both depressed, the player finally switched to the knight and was able to pass through the fully opened door.
All three characters are present in the environment at the same time, allowing you to swap between them freely. If friends are nearby, they can take advantage of the game's drop-in, drop-out local multiplayer and take control of the others. The multiplayer is local only and will never go into split-screen. Instead, friends can control the other two characters when they are visible onscreen. Move out of range, and the control drops out. While the system is perhaps unorthodox, Gilbert is confident the fluidity of this system will make it quick and easy for players to work together.
And chances are you'll need some help deciphering these puzzles. See if you can keep up! Our heroes needed to get past a monster guarding a door. In front of the monster was a bone-littered pit, with a large crane up above (don't ask us how it got there). To lure the monster under the crane, our heroes first had to collect a bucket of water, which was then used to power an underground hot dog vending machine. The dispensed hot dog was then skewered in the bone pit, thus inciting the monster to come out and chow down. While it was distracted, another hero activated the crane, which hoisted the monster out of the way so that the other heroes could pass. That's just common sense, right?
None of the action we saw involved timing jumps or battling enemies. Instead, it was all about exploration and puzzle solving, which is what you would expect from a traditional adventure game. The layout of the cave itself, as Gilbert described it, will be one large, seamless environment. Certain sections will be tailored to the individual characters in your party to take advantage of their special abilities. You cannot change your party after the initial selection, and each member has his or her own storyline and ending. Obviously, players are encouraged to run through the game multiple times to get the full effect--but the team also stated that it doesn't want you to feel shortchanged if you play through only once.
We'll spare you the intricacies of the second puzzle, which involved a dragon, some gold, and a dead princess. Needless to say, The Cave is sticking to the same, ever-so-slightly twisted sense of humor that has made its adventure game predecessors resonate with many players. We'll be sure to pass along more details as they become available, but until then, know that The Cave will be released for download on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC next year.