“It’s better than Plato’s Allegory of the Cave,” Double Fine’s Tim Schafer said of his company’s newest game, The Cave. “Actually it’s better than Plato.” Would that it were so.
The Cave, which is designed by Monkey Isalnd creator Ron Gilbert and was just announced by SEGA for release in early 2013, is an interconnected exploration game built around 7 parables, told as a hybrid between 2D platforming and adventure game puzzle solving. You can choose three characters–out of seven total–to take into the cave, each of which have their own journeys to go on.
In truth, The Cave is probably closer in spirit to the gnarly Dagobah cave that Luke descends in The Empire Strikes Back than it is Plato’s imagined dialogue about the sensory world being an illusion. When translated into kitsch, Plato’s proposition that the only way to know the world is through intellectual reasoning becomes a folksy parable generator.
Jeff Matulef explains in Eurogamer:
The sparse-toothed Hillbilly is searching for love, the nonchalant Monk his master, the brave Knight a sword “of unequaled power”, a pair of gothy Dickensian Orphans their parents, the Adventurer her lost companions (and treasure). The Scientist is on the cusp of a great discovery for all mankind, and the Time Traveler comes from millions of years in the future to prevent something terrible from happening.
Depending on which character you pick to be in your party, you’ll be given access to parts of the cave tailored specifically to their quest.
Besides solving puzzles with inventory items, each character will come with their own unique special abilities. The Knight can sprout a pair of spectral wings for soft landings and erect a force-field, while the Hillbilly can hold his breath indefinitely (putting Guybrush Threepwood’s 10-minute record to shame), and the Time Traveler can teleport. Puzzles can be solved in different ways depending on who you take with you, adding lots of replay value.
Later puzzles rely on these powers. A walkthrough of a section of the Knight’s specific area tasks him with getting an amulet from a princess. In order to do so, he must win her love by gathering gold guarded by a dragon. This requires the Knight to act as a diversion, using his barrier to withstand the dragon’s fire breath, while the scientist can sneak in the backdoor to steal the treasure. A sign by the door cautions you to keep the gate closed at all times, but our determined scientist doesn’t concern herself with following directions, so she leaves the door open, causing the just-robbed dragon to go on an off-screen rampage while she flees to the princess’ chamber.
If the cave is a place where everyone finds whatever it is they’ve brought in with them, it’s especially fitting that all of these parables will be bound together in the framework of platforming and puzzle-solving, the two most primeval fundaments of every game.
You can find out just how much essential truth there is in these tales in early 2013 when The Cave will be released on PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and PC.