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The Deep Cave (Xbox LIVE Indie Games)

The awakening of difficult platformers in the last few years was incredibly surprising to witness. While the genre was pretty much absent for a long time (at least in the mainstream games), titles like Super Meat Boy, I Wanna Be The Guy, VVVVVV, The Impossible Game and many others show that people are still interested in it despite the rise of casual games. The Deep Cave, a game developed by Pennybridge Indie Game Studio for the Xbox LIVE Indie Games channel, is totally inspired by this wave. Does it stands out from the rest of the games?

The Deep Cave first presents the player to the main character of the game (Pi) in a really interesting way. The player actually plays as an outside viewer who can talk to the character on the screen and control all of his actions. From this point, Pi explains us that he saw a bright light down in a cave and he wants you to help him get to it. He explains the controls while asking for help, which is another interesting way of bringing up the controls (instead of a long boring tutorial). What follows is a multitude of different crazy events that I won’t spoil for you. All you have to know is that it leads to the light (an ending that can change depending on your Death Count at this point of the game).

The game’s gameplay, like a large majority of platformers, revolves solely around jumping. In fact, The Deep Cave is only about executing precise jumps to survive the multiple levels it has to offer. Some of the levels bring interesting gameplay elements like hidden paths and gravity inversion. Sure those elements are borrowed from other games (IWBTG and VVVVVV in these cases), but The Deep Cave uses it in a nice different way. Controls feel weak on some occasions (resulting in deaths) but it doesn’t interfere much with the overall experience and more importantly doesn’t get frustrating.

For most veteran players, getting to the end of the game will take about an hour or two, depending on personal platforming skills. As of beginners, it will probably take about twice the time (if they do complete the game instead of walking away from it in frustration). Note that it is possible to save progress on any of the level, which makes thing much less frustrating. Also, it makes the game perfect for long or short sessions (since you can play one or many levels if you want to).

The Deep Cave’s graphics are good and really fit with the game’s spirit. 8-bit sprites are quite nice, especially the bigger monsters. The environments are also different from one to another so it’s easy to differentiate the sections of the game (the ice cave, the lava cave and even inside a giant worm!). As for the audio, the sounds are really good and really make you feel like you are playing an old-school 8-bit game. Strangely, the soundtrack doesn’t really fit with the action happening in the game (it is too slow/relaxed for all the exciting stuff that is going on).

If you like “masochists platformers” (like the ones mentioned earlier in the text), you will like The Deep Cave. It takes some of the best elements from the genre and blends them together in a really enjoyable mix. While beginners might want to try the demo first, veterans should really buy this game. You will love it.

The Deep Cave is available on the Xbox LIVE Indies Games channel for the Xbox 360 for 80 Microsoft Points (1$).


- Awesome level design
- Good challenge for veterans
- Multiple endings make replaying the game interesting
- Low price

- The music doesn’t fit all the action going on in the game most of the time
- The difficulty of the game will discourage some players (mostly beginners)

Story: 6
Gameplay: 8
Visuals: 8
Audio: 7
Lasting appeal: 6
Innovation: 5

Final Score: 8

Game experience at time of redaction: Game cleared twice, both endings acquired.
Redacted on: March 14th 2011
Uploaded on: March 14th 2011