An education in ’70s adventure game design.
$58.50 | PC, PS5, XBS/X, Switch | colossalcave3d.com
Colossal Cave is a new version of Colossal Cave Adventure, a text adventure from the late 1970s. While not the first attempt at a graphical reimagining of its namesake, it is the first to render the cave in full 3D, with WASD and mouse controls, leaving nothing to the imagination whatsoever.
The prose lives on as narration, which is thoughtfully implemented as a ‘look’ interaction attached to your cursor – always available to flesh out a scene or describe an object, but rarely forced upon you. And its presence allows you to appreciate just how faithful a rendition this is.
This game was in many ways a blueprint for the point-and-click adventure genre as we still know it today, asking you to scour the environment for objects to place in your inventory, and then to find places where those objects might be applied to allow you further progress. Ultimately, your goal is to find treasure that will contribute to your point total.
Considering its age, Colossal Cave’s puzzle logic is surprisingly robust. But surrounding these puzzles are elements that have weathered the decades less well. Take the dwarves, who intermittently spring out of the earth to hurl a knife in your direction. They usually miss, but an RNGdetermined hit will kill you instantly, sending you back to the well house. Worse, resurrection has a cost, pulling directly from your point total – making a perfect score a frustrating ambition to reach for.
Then there are Colossal Cave’s mazes, so notorious at the time that one repeated description, “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike,” has resonated across the years, becoming a byword in hacker culture for a situation in which no possible action affects the outcome. Escape is possible, with patience, but torment is inevitable. A fact which makes you wonder whether parts of Colossal Cave might have been better left buried deep beneath the rock. Both from a design and aesthetic perspective, there are far fairer caverns to delve into these days.
Colossal Cave is certainly One for nostalgists and those who just love getting lost on spelunking holidays.