Double Fine knows how to exploit and subvert player expectations
The Cave is an adventure game and after starting it, I chose to try to complete the experience using The Knight, with his invincibility, the Adventurer and her grappling hook and, finally, the Hillbilly and his underwater skills.The Double Fine created video game reacts to my selection and introduces three unique areas in every game that are linked to the characters, allowing them to fulfil their greatest desire and then discover the secret that the game intro hints at.
The Knight area, which popped up first in my game, gives a good example of how The Cave takes traditional adventure game tropes and proceeds to subvert them (mild spoilers follow).
My Knight is the only one who can access the castle and he quickly discovers a sword set in stone, named Excalibur, a dragon in a dungeon with treasure around it, a Princess high up in a balcony, prim and proper, and an elderly King who just wants to see her happy.
So far, it’s a standard fantasy setup and even the design of the Knight area is basic on many levels, with one great puzzle to solve in order to progress.
But soon after, the Princess reveals that she’s actually interested in engineering and has little reason to love her shinning Knight.
After that, my problem solving skills got me the object I needed from the dragon’s hoard, but also allowed him to break free and attack the castle itself.
The final moments of the Knight’s adventure involved using dynamite to break Excalibur out of the stone and an interesting ultimate fate for the King and his daughter.
Double Fine has managed to take ideas that almost all gamers associate with this setting and these characters and then managed to create humor and tension by simply confounding player expectations.