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About the Story
... you do not know how you got here. The last thing you remember is going out to eat at a fancy restaurant. Perhaps you were drugged. Perhaps you had a bad case of food poisoning and wandered off, feverish, into the outskirts of town. Whatever the case may be, you are here now. Wherever here is. And you want to leave.
48th Place - 22nd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2016)
The Breakfast Review
I think there's some interesting puzzle design here, probably, but the problem is the bugginess. This is, I believe, a First Attempt, and unfortunately I see a barrage of basic errors getting in the way of the experience.
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You play an undefined protagonist (as good looking as ever!) who wakes up in a cave. I think this may be a first effort and while it leans a little heavily on puzzle-game cliches, there's plenty of attention given to the writing and making sure the environments are interesting. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like it was playtested at all. You start out in a room with three passages leading out of it, but no indication of what direction anything is in or how the passages are different. Okay, let's pick...west? Ah, apparently I just went through a secret door I wasn't supposed to know about until much later, and the game assumes I've solved all the puzzles to get to this point. Oops.
You also can't 'look passages'--but you can 'look passage', and it'll ask you which one, and finally you get a list of the differences and can look at them individually. The game, as far as I got, is full of this kind of thing--which is a shame because the writing is fine and the world has the rich flavor of mid-90s Mystiness, full of gears and symbols and mysterious whimsical machinery. I found pieces of a lot of puzzles, complete with alternate solutions (some suboptimal)--there's a lot here and I can tell a lot of work and thought went into it. It would probably look fantastic if you read a complete transcript of play from someone who knew all the right commands in the right order, but if you deviate from what it expects, stuff gets weird quick.
The author has a lot of potential, and my rating reflects in part what this game could be as much as what it is. In its current form it needs a little more technical experience (and playtesters!) to get it into a shape where it's not a struggle to play, at least for me.
This game was written by an established board game maker and writer. Caroline Berg had a forum thread (located at https://videogamegeek.com/thread/1117906/you-are-standing-cave/page/6) where she was narrating an adventure game to the board members.
This game is the implementation of that forum thread. It was written in 2 weeks, after 1 week spent learning Inform.
The current implementation was not beta-tested, so it could really use some fixing up, but the core of it is good. It could do with a walkthrough.
(This is an edited version of a review I originally wrote for my blog during IFComp 2016.)
You are standing in a cave... is a parser-driven adventure of perennial adventuring. Stuck in the title cave with only a random collection of stuff in your pockets, you, the viewpoint adventurer, must unstick yourself and escape. The environment is full of props and clues designed to speak tantalisingly to each other in the language of puzzles via your adventuring brain. The climbable, the ignitable, the combinable; they're all here.
This is plainly not a game for people who dislike puzzles. It's straight-shooting meat and potatoes adventuring, roughly implemented, and with a title that could easily be read as a joke about banality. While cave's first room looks dull and prototypically cavey, things become more involving if you give it a room or two.
The game's tone is encouraging with a dash of wide-eyed. The adventurer seeks answers to age-old questions like, 'How do I defeat this giant venus flytrap?' or 'What really happened when I turned that dial?' The game is excited about the player's progress. Its positive tone acts as a helpful counterweight to the rough typological edges and programming oversights. Probably its weakest areas are in verb coverage and the offering of alternative phrasings for obvious actions, partly mitigated by it also going in for lots of USE phrasings. (e.g. USE A WITH B)
The game's generic USE leanings fit in with another observation I made: That Cave often feels like a graphical point-and-click adventure rendered as prose. I don't mean that in a redundant way, given that point-and-click adventures owe their existence to prose IF. I mean that it takes aesthetics that were added to adventures when they were transitioning into graphical form and brings them back into the all-prose realm. I refer to aesthetics like the extended depictions of transformations that occur in the environment when puzzles are solved. Objects revolve, rise, shine, glimmer or rotate at relative descriptive length. It's visual, and the physical movements are important.
I was able to clear the game without using the walkthrough, though I needed a little human help gleaned from another review. So, although Cave lists no testers and has lots of bugs, you can clear it. I had enough fun doing so.