MacLife

The Cave Review

If there’s one thing you should know before playing The Cave, it’s that appearances are deceiving. What at first seems to be a whimsical spelunking adventure gradually becomes a surreal trip through the depths of the soul. Cute, big-headed stock characters hide dark, twisted secrets. And what might at first seem like a straightforward 2D puzzle-platformer is in fact a clever throwback to classic point-and-click adventures of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Of course, discovering all that is a big part of what makes The Cave so irresistibly engaging.

At the outset of The Cave, you’ll be able to assemble a team of three explorers (who you can switch between at any time) from a pool of seven. Most of the game’s puzzles require at least two of them to work together, carrying around items or manipulating the environment to let each other through, but each character also has a unique skill that can make things a little easier. The Adventurer can use her grappling hook to swing across certain gaps, for example, while the Hillbilly can hold his breath indefinitely, letting him swim through long tunnels that would drown other characters. The team you pick determines not just how you’ll navigate the Cave’s imaginative challenges, but also the path you take through it.

The Cave 620

See, the thing about the Cave itself is that it’s sentient, possibly even omnipotent. Not only does it provide genuinely funny narration throughout the adventure, but it changes its layout depending on who’s exploring; and while some levels are the same every time, others are tailored to each character’s unique abilities (and to their murky pasts), and will only appear if the right character is in your party. This means you’ll have to play through the game at least three times with different teams to see everything — and you’ll want to, because the character-specific areas are some of The Cave’s most creative and rewarding sections, featuring unique gameplay twists like time travel and elaborate switch-driven death traps.

The upshot of repeat plays is that, once you know how to solve their puzzles, the familiar areas of the game can be breezed through quickly, and a playthrough that at first might take six to eight hours will be doable in two or three. The downside is that this turns familiar stages into rote obligations that you’ll want to slam through so you can get to the new stuff, and the big, twisty cave networks that make up each stage require a lot of tedious backtracking even if you know what you’re doing. Even so, The Cave's clever gameplay and goofy-yet-dark storyline are enough to keep us coming back for more.

The bottom line. While we could do without all the backtracking through huge, empty tunnel networks, The Cave packs in more than enough twisted charm and inventive gameplay to keep players riveted.

Review Synopsis

Product: 

The Cave

Company: 

Double Fine

Contact: 

Price: 

$14.99

Requirements: 

Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Intel Core Duo Processor, 2GB RAM, ATI HD 2600/NVIDIA 8800GT/Intel HD3000 or better card with at least 256 MB VRAM

Positives: 

Lots of reasonably challenging puzzles that change depending on which characters you've picked. Storyline deftly balances comedy with creepiness. Interesting enough to keep us riveted through multiple playthroughs.

Negatives: 

Backtracking through big stages to find items or hit switches is a drag. Some characters' special abilities feel superfluous outside of their specific stages. Replaying some areas can get tedious.

Score: 
4 Great

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Wave Trip Review

It's tough to believe that Wave Trip would exist in a world without Sound Shapes. Like that brilliantly experiential PlayStation 3 and Vita platformer, Wave Trip merges music-making with a new take on a well-worn gameplay style, with both allowing users to create and share their own stages using the existing level elements on a simple grid-based layout. The similarities extend into music styles and visual design, but using that framework with a side-scrolling runner makes it feel like more than just a noteworthy imitator, with a stronger focus on skill creating a much different overall tone.

Wave Trip actually plays a bit like another presentationally memorable iOS side-scroller, Whale Trail, with a hero that slowly bobs up and down based on whether or not you're touching the screen. Here, though, the goal is to amass the highest possible score in shorter stages by accumulating both orange and blue icons, with the former increasing your score tally while the latter multiplies the added points. All the while, each collected icon adds a beat to the backing track, creating electronic soundscapes with nearly every minuscule action. Avoiding the enemies that fly into view or move around the screen is key to not only keeping your multiplier intact, but also keeping the beat alive, though a tap on the left side triggers a limited-use shield to ward off nearby aggressors.

Screen 34

The resulting experience locates the fine line between soothing and stress-inducing; the myriad blips and audio effects create catchy beats while the boldly colored icons and backdrops tease the eye, but all the while you're tensely attempting to dodge fast-moving foes and topple the global high scores. And the 20 included stages quickly ramp up in difficulty, so don't let the initial breezy introductions fool you. Stringing together a long chain in the later stages feels like a real accomplishment, particularly since the sluggish movement controls come with a learning curve.

Each pre-made stage can be remixed, or you can create your own from scratch using the various icons and enemies seen throughout the game. They're easily placed upon the level creation grid, which plays back your in-progress aural composition while you add and tweak elements, and completed stages can be freely shared online for others to play. That unlocks a wider world of possibilities and significant replay value, though the sharing interface could use a bit more life. Due to randomly-generated stage names and a lack of previews, tapping each user-created stage listing feels like embarking on a blind date, unsure of whether the outcome will prove fruitful or frightening.

The bottom line. Wave Trip may feel derivative in spots to multiplatform players, but it's nevertheless an exciting and engaging musical odyssey.

Review Synopsis

Product: 

Company: 

Lucky Frame

Price: 

$1.99

Requirements: 

iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later

Positives: 

Wonderful audio and visuals. In-game actions create catchy backing tracks. Can create and share your own stages online. Challenging high-score chase.

Negatives: 

Sluggish movements come with a learning curve. No preview or details for the user-created stages. Looks and sounds a whole lot like a recent PlayStation hit.

Score: 
4 Great

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