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Video Game / The Cave

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"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, without ever going up again you still return to the gift shop for the ending.
  • All That Glitters: Each time a player character decides to keep what they want, it almost always ends in tragedy.
  • 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."
  • An Aesop: You can't always get what you want. Sometimes you just shouldn't, because the cost is too high.
  • 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.
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  • 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: The Hillbilly. He's got the most sympathetic goal of all the characters (looking for love) and yet is violently bad with rejection.
  • 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, now 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: The cave itself just gets deeper and more complex as you go — even discounting the areas specific to your party members, there are entire zoos and oceans with tropical islands in them.
  • Black Comedy: The game is filled with it. In particular, the Cave likes to make jokes and snarky comments about the player characters' actions, which typically involve killing people or, at least, screwing them over.
  • Bookends: 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: The Cave, who is indeed a speaking character.
  • A Chat with Satan: The player's last conversation with the Gift Shop Clerk turns out to be this, as he tries to dissuade the player from giving up the gift that will doom their current character to a bad end. However, it's also possible to interpret him as just testing the player.
  • Creepy Twins: The aptly named Twins, who look like little ghoul children, are constantly side by side, and can make duplicates of themselves.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: Every level with an NPC can only be beaten by horribly screwing them over in one way or another.
  • 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.
  • 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: The motivation for some of the player characters is avenging slights done to them through some excessive revenge.
  • 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 Scientist's section is one, complete with a functional Nuclear Missile.
  • Everyone Has a Special Move: Each character is capable of one special move that allows them to get into their level (among other things), whereas if they aren't in your party, you leave it behind. The Knight doesn't take fall damage, the Hillbilly can swim forever without drowning, the Time Traveler can teleport through walls, the Scientist can hack machines, the Adventurer can swing from certain fixtures, the Twins can create copies of themselves, and the Monk has telekinesis.
  • Final Boss: The Hermit is the closest thing to one, as the level with him is always the last one and the final puzzle involves tricking him.
  • 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 archaeologists 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.
    • Rangfustsnote : no intact example of this device has ever been found but archaeologists 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 I and American President Franklin D. Bon Jovi.
  • Gratuitous Latin: The Cave's main theme features a Latin chant of Damus te: "We give you." Fitting for the Cave's theme of "giving people what they want."
  • Genius Loci: The titular Cave is clearly a living entity and narrates the story.
  • 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 is... at 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; they're forced to eat with their parents and poison themselves.
  • Hollywood Hacking: The scientist can hack any terminal as her special ability, including a vending machine.
  • Hover Skates: The Time Traveler has these, although they appear to be just a visual effect.
  • If I Can't Have You...: The bad ending for the Hillbilly: rather than accept his rejection, he burns down the whole carnival, then goes on a country-wide spree of burning down other carnivals.
  • 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. The Hillbilly also doesn't get any punishment, though he's not exactly happy either.
    • 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.
  • Klingon Promotion: The Monk's path involves killing off the current Master, leaving the Monk as the next in the line of succession.
  • L33t L1ng0: The Scientist must have l33t hacking skills, according to the Cave.
  • Lemony Narrator: The Cave itself narrates the story, and is not at all subtle in his jabs at the player characters.
  • Leitmotif: The main theme for the cave that plays during the title sequence.
  • 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. It's implied that the trinkets you can give to the gift shop — the Cursed Guitar, the Jeweled Skull, and the Thespian Award Statue — were their objects of desire.
    • 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 current or former Cave sojourners who got trapped in their sections.
    • A minor one occurs during the Twins' run. The Cave says he wants to make a Mary Poppins reference, but he doesn't want to get sued... again.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Some is present in the main theme.
  • 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.
    • However, the trope is also averted for the player, 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: If you give up what you desire most and refuse to screw someone over yet again, you're allowed to leave the Cave with your life. If you don't, you're found dead later on.
  • 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 just need three small trinkets to sell. Just three. Let me say that number again: three.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: Semi-averted; there is an area in the Cave specific to every character that you can enter the cave with, regardless of your party, 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: 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.
  • 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 at least one of these in one way or another, with some dipping their toe into another sin at the same time. For example:
    • Envy: The Time Traveler, who's so jealous co-worker got the "greatest employee of all time" honor instead of her that she's willing to try erasing his entire family line from existence by killing his ancient ancestor.
    • Gluttony: The Adventurer, who wants to keep all the glory of her and her friends' discoveries for herself. Also the Twins, who are positively spoiled by their parents and still not satisfied.
    • Greed: The Scientist, who was driven to use her intellect for destructive purposes by the promise of money. Also the Adventurer, who murdered her partners for the loot as much as the fame.
    • Lust: The Hillbilly, whose obsession with his beautiful "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. Some also believe the Twins fit this as well, as they believe they don't need their parents despite their young age. Also applies to the Adventurer for wanting all the fame of her expeditions.
    • 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. The Monk also counts for this, as him murdering his master is fueled in part by his frustration and rage over his repeated failures.
  • 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...
    • The three treasures from the tutorial area are all Double Fine or LucasArts references: A jeweled skull for Guybrush, a cursed guitar for Eddie Riggs, and Gloria Von Gouton's acting award from Psychonauts.
    • There are New Grog machines littered throughout the Cave. The Cave will try to remember some Sea Shanty, "99 bottles of beer on the wall..."
    • 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. Her cave paintings also reference to the film, as one of the scientists bears so much similarity to Dr. Strangelove that it cannot be a coincidence.
      • The achievement you obtain after beating the Scientist's level is called "Learn to Stop Worrying".
    • 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 Traveler's 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.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: The Knight's level; unlike the other playable characters, the Knight screws over everyone in his story by accident (you're forced to leave the dragon's cage unlocked.)
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: If you make the characters give up that which they desire most, they invariably get a happier ending and little rewards for doing the right thing (particularly in the case of the Hillbilly, who finds love with a nice girl).
  • 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.
  • "Test Your Strength" Game: The Hillbilly's level takes place in a carnival where you need to get 6 tickets to win a giant pink stuffed bear so that the Hillbilly can impress The Amazing Two-Legged Lady, and one of the tickets comes from winning this kind of game. The puzzle here is that the wimpy hammer that comes with the game has no chance of ringing the bell; you need to find a heavier sledgehammer to do that.
  • 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 Traveler's 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's level.
  • Underground Level: The whole game is one, though some of the areas don't feel like they're underground.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: At the end of the game, you can trade the objects that other people desire most in exchange for your own most treasured object. You don't have to in order to complete the game, but you can.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: If you steal someone else's object of desire and leave the cave, your character ends up dead in the main menu and you obtain the bad ending.
  • Villain Protagonist: Almost all of the player characters, as it's quickly revealed that they all have selfish motives to do some very terrible things.
  • Walk Like an Egyptian: If you enter a specific chamber as all three characters in the Adventurer's level, they do this dance, and you even unlock an achievement for it!
  • 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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