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Video Game: The Cave

"Welcome to...The Cave. That's me. Yes, yes, I'm a talking cave. Don't laugh, it makes dating hell."

The Cave is a 2013 puzzle platform Adventure Game by Ron Gilbert and Double Fine. In it, a team consisting of three of sevennote  characters with unique personalities, abilities and backstory ventures down a sentient cave, counting on each other's cooperation to explore the depths below as they discover themselves and try to learn lessons about how their past decisions led them to their current states.

Their reward for reaching the bottom, assuming they survive the journey, will be that which they desire most.

This work contains examples of:

  • Alien Geometries: Despite continually descending deeper into The Cave, you still return to the gift shop for the ending.
  • Altum Videtur/Leitmotif/Ominous Latin Chanting: The Cave's main theme features a latin chant of Damus te: "We give you."
  • An Aesop: You can't always get what you want. Sometimes you just shouldn't, because the cost is too high.
  • A Chat with Satan/Leave Your Quest Test/Secret Test of Character: You can attempt to give your characters' objects of Desire back to the gift shop owner, but he will try to dissuade you from doing so three times, mentioning all the effort and all the people you hurt involved in getting them. Give them back anyway, and you get the good endings.
  • Adult Fear: The Twins section. The Cave even warns, "Watch... but don't be afraid to avert your eyes. Especially if you... yourself... are a parent, and you enjoy making soup."
  • Already Done for You: In the return to the gift shop. As you go back and again get three trinkets, you won't have to solve the original puzzles again. If you look closely, it seems the puzzles and spike traps are in the process of being dismantled. The Gift Shop Clerk does mention that the Cave is closing soon and that the protagonists have taken so long they had been presumed lost.
  • Animal Nemesis: The huntress seems to consider the Crystal Cave Beast this
  • Antagonistic Offspring: The Twins They would've become self-made orphans if their plan had gone as they intended.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: No, you don't have to individually move each character everywhere by yourself. At certain points, usually when leaving a particular "area", the other two characters will automatically catch up to you, ready to proceed.
    • If for some reason you leave the crowbar behind before you move on to The Gift Shop, it will respawn at the falling pool.
      • Lampshaded in that your new crowbar is called "Another Crowbar".
  • Anti-Hero: All of the playable characters, if not downright anti-villians.
  • Arc Words: Variations on the phrase "What you desire most" come up often in this game.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The punishment for thieves on the Gift Shop "usually involves beatings and reading poetry."
  • Asshole Victim: The Greatest Employee of All Time. While he certainly doesn't deserve what he gets, just about all of his dialogue involves rubbing his title in your face. Of course, what we see may be less how he is and more how the Time Traveler perceives him.
    • The Hermit. After you arrive at the island, he doesn't lift a finger to help his potential rescuers while they work their asses off to get the boat to the other side, and once they do he immediately jumps in and cheerfully declares that one of them will have to stay behind for his sake. When the characters trick him away by reminding him that his dog is still left, he declares that the dog should get his own seat as well, leaving behind two people. Also, unlike most of the people the characters screw over throughout the game, he really isn't any worse off when they leave.
  • Beneath the Earth.
  • Black Comedy
  • Book Ends: You end the Cave Tour back at the Gift Shop, which is odd when you realize you've been descending the entire time.
  • Buffy Speak: in the Knight's level every torch on the wall has a different description starting with 'flame', 'flaming torch', etc. It soon falls into this calling one a 'flamey-wamey thing' and another a 'ouchy-hot-burny thing'.
    • And Chuck the Flame.
  • Character Title
  • Creepy Twins
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: Every level with an NPC can only be beaten by horribly screwing them over in one way or the other.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to Double Fine's other works. The sheer amount of character deaths and Black Comedy would make it stand out even if the game didn't make it easy for players to walk into a Bad Ending.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Even The Cave says there can't be any real death; you just teleport back to safe ground in a white mist if you perform a death-worthy action (including falling from a height).
  • Deconstruction: Of the zany adventure game Trickster hero. While silly, the generally selfish actions of the protagonists get a lot of people hurt or killed outright including, in many endings, the protagonists themselves.
  • Desert Island: The final area our heroes face, including bamboo pipes, a parrot, a hermit looking for rescue, and shark-infested waters.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Try bringing various objects to the Gift Shop Clerk during the opening sequence. He's got a unique response for almost everything you can possibly bring him.
  • Dissimile: "Time to sit back and watch the fireworks. And by fireworks I mean an instantaneous burst of nuclear energy fueled by enriched uranium."
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Motivation for some of the player characters.
  • Dragon Hoard: The Dragon in the Knight's level had a rather small one.
  • Drop-In-Drop-Out Multiplayer: A second and third player can hop in at any time and control the other two characters. There is no Split Screen, though. The camera focuses on one player and the others can only be controlled while on screen. If one leaves the camera view, they can no longer be controlled, but the camera can be passed to them so they can be the "focus".
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Scientists section is one, complete with a functional Nuclear Missle.
  • Everyone Has A Special Move
  • Foreshadowing: The Cave does this fervently. So much so that it seems to be one of the few things that keeps it amused.
    • From the opening narration to the Knight's section: "... Or a lesson we HOPE he is about to learn, before anyone else gets hurt. Or maimed. Or killed. Or eaten alive. Forget I said 'eaten alive'. Spoilers!"
    • Xavetar the Fortune Teller has two different fortunes for each character: one for the good ending and one for the bad ending.
  • Funny Terrain Cross Section: all sorts of weird things buried in the surrounding cave walls, usually based on the theme of the current cave section.
  • Future Imperfect: When you travel to the future (possibly 1 million years from now but The Cave has problems with periods of time, so who knows?) the museum has exhibitions on "ancient man" which includes;
    • The combustion engine; ancient man would use such devices to power toasters, toothbrushes and even elevators. However man's love of toast and dental hygiene meant that they used up the fuel which ultimately lead to the development of hover-boots.
    • Smurgnote : nobody knows what ancient man uses these devices for but archeologists have discovered that man use to carry reams of these devices on their person and have suggested a religious purpose. Others however have said that it may have been used by boys to add curls to their long hair.
    • Ranfustsnote : no intact example of this device has ever been found but archeologists believed that it was a type of clothing.
      • And after changing the past: the only known example was recently unearthed under this very museum. Experts now believe that children would take part in a brutal game where the aim was to throw the open end of the object onto each others heads.
    • Dinosaurs: these massive creatures existed 10,000 years ago and lived on mountain-tops foraging for nuts and berries. They also were very social animals, living in tribes led by alpha dinosaurs, and had to keep in motion at all times to stay alive, much like the Amazon Forest-dwelling penguin.
      • The museum did an amazing job, however, at recreating dino pheromones to spray on patrons.
    • Also World War One and president Franklin D. Bon Jovi
  • Genius Loci
  • Heroic Mime: All of the playable characters are silent, though the term "Heroic" is a bit of a stretch.
  • Highly Visible Password: Appears in the scientist level with a slight twist. Passwords are dependent on what day it is and you have the passwords for every single day (apart from Sunday) and you of course don't know what day it first. Passwords are randomized and will get reset after each failed attempt meaning you can't use all the passwords on the sheets and gain access. Oddly the passwords on the post-it-notes change automatically.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The bad ending for the Twins.
  • Hollywood Hacking: The scientist can hack any terminal as her special ability including a vending machine.
  • If I Can't Have You: The bad ending for the Hillbilly is an... extreme example.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite the Narrator reveling in the dark humor of the game and the wicked decisions the characters make, he continues to gently encourage the player to learn from the mistakes of those around them and make the right and morally sound decisions themselves. Even when your characters meet bad ends, he maintains that there is still hope for you, the player.
  • Jump Physics: You cannot Double Jump, but you can still jump on mid-air right after you run off a ledge.
  • Karma Houdini: The Scientist, Monk and Adventurer are actually rewarded for their misdeeds if you take the dark path with them.
    • Of course, anyone who took the dark path never makes it out of the Cave, and is found dead when starting a new playthrough with different characters. So whether the Cave be real or simply a metaphor, eventually all the characters pay a terrible price to get what they want.
  • Lemony Narrator: The Cave itself.
  • Leet Lingo: The scientist must have l33t hacking skills according to The Cave.
  • Mind Screw: And how. It's very debatable just how much actually happens in the cave and how much is just illusion, not to mention if the events in the character areas are things that have happened, things that will happen, things that are currently happening or just tests of character.
  • Multiple Endings: At the end of the game the shop owner gives each character what what they came for, but if you talk to him several times you can give it back, getting a different ending for each. After deciding for all three, The Cave will comment differently depending on how many took each one.
  • My Greatest Failure: All characters effectively go through this in their paths. Whether they view them as failures or successes is up to the player. Or maybe they didn't *really* do those bad things in the real world if you get their good ending. It's a little ambiguous.
  • Noodle Incident: While exploring the cave, you find out about previous adventurers, such as a pirate, a robot, a clown, and Isaac Newton, and never hear about them again.
    • The trinkets to pass the gift shop are the objects of desire of characters who earned the bad ending. Makes you wonder about who wanted the Cursed Guitar, the Jeweled Skull, and the Thespian Award Statue that are the default trinkets if no one has earned the bad ending yet. To say nothing of the stories behind the Miner, the Huntress, and the Hermit, who, by their positions in the endgame, are also implied to be Cave sojourners.
      • It's implied that it was the pirate, the clown and the robot who were the previous party and are found dead later.
    • A minor one occurs during the twins run. The cave says he wants to make a Mary Poppins reference, but he don't want to get sued....again.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: the Monk level has the classic puzzle of balancing weights against two urns that don't equal the same weight.
    • It is also averted however; as you're given a URL that gives you the solution of the puzzle if you can't be bothered to figure it out for yourself.
  • Post-End Game Content: During the intro, the characters are required to fetch three treasures for the gift shop, which are a Cursed Guitar, a Jeweled Skull, and a Thespian Award Statue by default. Completing the game with one or more bad endings will replace said treasures (and their surrounding themed display and skeleton) with those of now-deceased characters.
  • Redemption Earns Life
  • Red Herring: For the sake of making the puzzles less obvious, each level has several items that do literally nothing.
  • Replay Value: Since some actions are specific to some characters, the Cave can only be fully explored through multiple play-throughs.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: In the zoo area the lead character almost immediately gets chomped down on by a crystal cave monster and gets carried off. The character select icons in the display list the character as "Dead". Once you find the monster, however, you'll find the character was just stashed alive in the monster's lair, and you'll be able to control that character again.
  • Rule of Three: Choose three characters to enter the cave. Find three trinkets and give them to the store-clerk. Each character has their own section (so three then) while there are an additional three sections where you meet up with three different characters. Then at the end you have to find another three objects to replace the three objects that you need.
    Store Clerk: "I need just three small trinkets to open The Cave. Let me say that number again, three.
  • Schrödinger's Gun/Player Character: Played with. The Cave has the same layout on each playthrough and some areas are mandatory. However, there is an area in the cave specific to each character but you will only be able(and forced) to enter the ones pertaining to the characters in your party. If you reach an area but don't have the character in your party, you can't go inside and another path will be available to bypass it.
  • Secret Test of Character: While each character does horrible things in the Cave in order to benefit themselves, in the end, they are allowed the option of giving back what they seemed to so desperately seek.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Some of the achievements:
    • 'Who Wants to Live Forever' requires that you go through the cave without dying once. This seems easy enough once you've played through a few times, until you consider that you have three characters to keep track of, and they are surprisingly adept at killing each other by accident. Not to mention all of the deaths by falling and that attempting to bypass the challenge by Save Scumming will disqualify you from the achievement.
    • 'Remorse', which requires you to take the postcard from The Cave's Gift Shop and keep it with you for the entire game. Either you keep it with one of your characters at all times, preventing them from using any other items, or else drop it somewhere and risk forgetting about it and leaving it behind forever.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: Each character represents one of these in one way or another. For example:
    • Envy: The Time Traveler, who is jealous her co-worker got the "greatest employee of all time" honor instead of her.
    • Gluttony: The Adventurer, who wants to keep all the glory of her and her friends' discoveries for herself.
    • Greed: The Scientist, who was driven to use her intellect for destructive purposes by the promise of money.
    • Lust: The Hillbilly, whose obsession with his "one true love" caused him to hurt others and eventually burn down a carnival in a fit of jealousy.
    • Pride: The Monk, whose unwillingness to accept his own failures causes him to lash out against his master and his fellow monks.
    • Sloth: The Knight, who dresses like a hero but will not lift a finger to help those in need. He's so lazy that, while every other character intentionally kills someone, the Knight causes death purely out of incompetence and irresponsibility.
    • Wrath: The Twins, who violently rebel against their uptight parents with Deadly Pranks.
      • YMMV on which character corresponds to which sin. For example, one could argue that the Monk is Wrath, as his rage and frustration with failure drive him to murder the other, more successful monks and the Twins are Pride, believing they don't need their parents.
      • It's possible to interpret The Adventurer as Pride (wanting all the fame), the Monk being Wrath for previously-stated reasons, and the Twins for being Gluttony (their parents spoil them with many gifts, and yet they still want more).
  • Sequence Breaking: If you get another hot dog at the beginning, manage to get it all the way to the zoo and make sure the character that "dies" isn't holding it, you can skip most of that level.
    • The Time Traveller's Flash Step and Monk's telekinesis are oh so abusable. For instance, if you take the Time Traveller to the Knight's level, you can just Flash Step to the dragon lair's key, skipping a portion that would otherwise require all three characters, and if done wrong would have you do it all over again as the enemy knight kills you.
  • Shout-Out: Including several to past Double Fine / Ron Gilbert projects:
    • The Cave Paintings bear a bit of a resemblance in art style to Psychonauts Memory Vaults. The subjects of those don't get nearly as dark as some of these, though...
    • There are New Grog machines littered throughout The Cave.
    • The Scientist's level features a pool with a reactor in it identical to that from Maniac Mansion.
    • The Annoying Hermit on the island resembles Herman Toothrot.
    • The Twins' area features a guest appearance by Chuck the Plant.
    • The Hermit is Trouble, with a capital T, which stands for... Hermit?
    • The Scientist's part has several to Dr. Strangelove.
      • Including her cave paintings, where one of the other scientists bears so much similarity to Dr. Strangelove that it cannot be a coincidence.
    • The computer in the scientist's level may ask you; “would you like to hear a song?”
    • The narration drops more than a few hints that the Cave is actually the one from Plato's allegory of the cave, especially with what you do to get the best ending.
  • Soft Water: Anytime you reach a point where you're not supposed to be able to backtrack, it involves what would otherwise be a lethal fall into a pool of water. Taken Up to Eleven when you first enter the cave.
  • Spikes of Doom: Especially prevalent in The Adventurer's section of the cave.
  • Spiritual Successor: The game shares and updates many gameplay concepts from Gilbert's Maniac Mansion.
    • The Time Travelers Section feels very reminiscent of Day Of The Tentacle, the sequel to Maniac Mansion.
  • Stock Scream: One of the lab techs in the Scientist's area utters the Wilhelm scream when vaporized by a laser.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: The cave paintings.
  • Teamwork Puzzle Game: Many of the game's puzzles require the three characters to work in coordination to complete, while some puzzles are specific to the unique abilities of a character.
  • Threatening Shark: The reason why our heroes need to use the boat to travel to and from the island section, despite being perfectly capable of swimming.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Due to the strange nature of the Cave, the Time Travelers section is one of these.
    • Arguably the entire Cave, considering that the characters all come from different eras and only one of them has an excuse. That's if it's meant to be happening literally.
  • True Companions: Your three player characters will come off as this, considering how they screw over anyone and everyone else in order to progress together. It is heavily downplayed with the Adventurer, who does try to get her companions killed (or refuse to save them), but it is implied that she learns from the experience to be more of a team player.
  • Two-Keyed Lock: several puzzles require characters to pull switches/stand on pressure pads to allow other characters to past. Also a literal three-keyed-lock is in the scientist level.
  • Underground Level: Though some of the areas don't feel like they're underground.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Intended as part of the story in many cases. The game is quick, though, to hit you with...
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Oh yes, and how... Some of the endings are rather sad too. You cruel, cruel person.
  • Walk Like An Adventurer
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Cave does this a lot in his narration, though in a rather snarky way.
    • "The lives of 100 million people are trivial compared to the ability to spelunk a little further."
    • "Her companions are in a rather tight spot. Does she know? Perhaps a better question is: Does she care?"
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Spouted liberally by the King in the Knight's path.

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