The Deep Cave
May 31, 2012 2 Comments
When I recently announced at Twitter that I was adding supplemental genre-based leaderboards to the existing top 10 list, I caught a little flack for saying punishers would be segregated into their own little list. I guess the argument is that punishers are typically either platformers or space shooters, and as such belong in those categories. I say phooey to that. Phooey says I! Phooey on the whole lot of you! Punishers need to be kept separate, lest they corrupt those games that try to be fun without the sadomasochistic undertones.
I reject the argument that most old-school platformers were in essence punishers before such a thing existed. Yea, some games were undoubtedly too hard for their own good, like the stuff you see on GameCenter CX. But were those games really any good? To put it in this perspective, I have plenty of people tell me that the original Super Mario Bros. was one of the pivotal games of their childhood. They can describe the first time they played it like someone recounting where they were when they heard that Kennedy got shot. In contrast to that, I don’t recall hearing anyone start to reminisce about the good days spent playing Ghosts & Goblins out of the blue.
Then again, I don’t recall hearing games from that era taking a running count of how many lives you’ve lost. So much for nostalgia.
I died 633 times over the course of four hours spent playing The Deep Cave, another fucking punisher that is only hard because the controls are shit. In the case of Cave, the movement physics are looser than the village whore. They’re so sensitive that even the act of lightly tapping the d-pad in an attempt to heel-toe your way across a stage is not really possible. Mind you, the level design is set up in a way that requires the utmost precision in every step and jump you make, but the game doesn’t have any of tools to make the experience anything other than miserable. This is like asking you to win the Daytona 500 while riding a horse.
I had actually planned to play something else, but I realized I was one month away from my site turning one-year-old. I have a “Top 25 Xbox Live Indie Games of All Time” feature planned for this, but realized that I needed to get to as many classics that I missed as possible. The Deep Cave has been a game people have pitched me on ever since I reviewed LaserCat and saddled it with the original #1 position on my leaderboard. After playing Deep Cave, I’m now going to just assume that many of my followers message me directly from their local opium dens, because you have got to be high to compare them. That, or they have the most dead-pan sense of black humor ever. How is Deep Cave even remotely like LaserCat? Other than retro-style graphics and screens that are given quirky names, the two have nothing in common. LaserCat is a Metroidvania with smooth play control. The Deep Cave is a linear punisher where a violent sneeze pointed at the controller is enough to send your dude scooting along to his death.
A few stages into Cave, I figured I had found the game’s hook. I entered a stage where the gravity reversed and I had to platform across the ceiling for a few levels. It wasn’t really the game’s hook, as the game was more or less the same from a different angle. Later, you do switch between the floor and ceiling, which breaks up the monotony of walk and die somewhat. Kind of like how a protestor lighting himself on fire is a good way to liven up a hunger strike, in that the whole thing is still horrific to go through.
A lot of the guys who sold me on trying The Deep Cave swore that they got used to the controls at some point. I never did. Props to them if they could, the fucking weirdos. I just never could get the hang of having to compensate for such utterly busted play control. Granted, as we’ve established, I’m not the most coordinated of people. I would have probably had a tough time with The Deep Cave if it controlled absolutely perfectly. Plotting a course to take on each stage and memorizing enemy patterns already gives you enough problems to juggle. Tossing in super-loose control was one thing to deal with too many. I guess what I’m saying is I’m not dexterous. By the way, dexterous means “having coordination” not “stalking people, tying them to a table, and plunging a knife into their chest.” But I’m not that either. As far as you know.
80 Microsoft Points juiced a blood orange ominously in the making of this review.