You are now reading a review of Colossal Cave by someone who chose not to play the game to the end for reasons that will become clear shortly. As your eyes move along the screen, you come across new sentences, which is a cue that you’re actually reading.
Having played the original Colossal Cave, you have an idea of what the game is about. You know that you are exploring a large cave that was found near your starting location. You know you’ll be collecting treasures, scavenging and picking up many exotic objects, and using those things to get past some of the obstacles you come across, including dragons… because… who doesn’t love dragons?
Wondering if Colossal Cave is useful, as you start the game, you will notice that the movement options are limited in the game. One is called Classic Locomotion and it lets you move around the environment using a joystick. While there is an option to switch between sudden and smooth rotation, there is no option to make the motion follow your head. You find this rather annoying, so try the other option. The other option is called Comfort Locomotion. The menu screens tell you that this is the master remixer’s preferred control method. Try it. It’s weird and unwieldy, it maps all motion controls to the left controller and all stock controls to the right controller. You go forward by holding down the trigger button, as if it were some kind of accelerator pedal, and you go back by holding down the handle button.
You’ve been trying it for a while, but you hate it.
It reverts to what’s called Classic Locomotion, though it lacks head-following options.
You find yourself in front of a room in the forest, approach it and try to open the door with your in-game hand.
You can not do that.
Your in-game hands only serve as pointers, making it feel like you’re stuck in some sort of point-and-click adventure game made in the mid-1980s. You wonder why a 2023 VR port of a text-based adventure game originally created in 1976 would use a control system used by DOS-based PC games made in the 1980s.
Your hand, now just a pointer to an eye-shaped pointer, is pointing at the doorknob. You click the Use button, mapped to the trigger button, and Colossal Cave’s narrator confirms what you can actually see; That the door is closed.
You cycle through the function of the play button with the hold button, and it now turns your cursor into a hand, showing that you can now pick up or use things with the cursor.
You click the hand-shaped indicator on the doorknob, and it opens.
You wonder why you can’t simply grab the doorknob and push it open yourself. Why do I point things out for their use, you wonder to yourself, but you struggle.
Inside, you’ll find a few items, although you can clearly see what they are, you can still tap your eye cursor on each one for the game to tell you what it is. Seems redundant and useless.
You can pick up some food, not by using your hands, but by pointing your hand-shaped cursor at the food and clicking the play button. Go to your inventory.
If you want to eat the food you just picked up, you open up your inventory screen, find your food, tap the cursor on the food, and you actually pick it up. Then you hit the “Eat” button at the top of your inventory, thus eating the food.
You wonder if just eating and putting it in your mouth would be easier, and perhaps more immersive.
You are a soldier.
Finally, after picking up a number of other items, you leave the cabin. To the left, you notice a path. You follow the path, and thank lords above that huge cavern at least allows you to change your movement speed.
You see an owl in a tree. On the floor below, you find a metal grate. You remember that you can’t just drag it because your hands aren’t really hands, just pointer pointers. You test it instead, and the game faithfully tells you it’s unlocked.
You remember you have keys.
You draw your inventory with a control button, then you select switches by pointing at them and clicking the play button, you direct the switches to the use button, and finally you direct them to the metal grate. Opens. You go down the stairs and make your way to the cave.
As Colossal Cave progresses, you wonder why the text adventure game released in 1976 was transformed into a virtual reality platformer in the year 2023 using the point-and-click mechanics of games made in the 1980s.
You wonder why you can’t use your hands as a hand.
You wonder if these design decisions were an attempt to stay faithful to the original Colossal Cave, but quickly remember that the original game wasn’t, in fact, a point-and-click game, but rather a text-based game.
For a moment, you think it might have been better to start this game in a computer lab, where you could sit on an old PDP-10 and run the original text game. Certainly, that would have been more in line with the spirit of the original had that been the intent.
Then you’d think this would make for a terrible VR experience, although it might work just as well as an introduction to a much better game than the one you’re playing right now.
You explore caves for a while. Knowing that others will ask you what you experienced in the cave, you begin to take notes.
There is no combat in Colossal Cave, at least not in the way most players define it, you can “use” items on objects or characters, like a bird you lock in a cage, then unleash an attacking cobra on it, for example.
There is some diversity in the environments found within the cave; Ruins of an ancient temple, an area where there is some construction going on, an area with glowing plant life, etc. Many of them have many exits, and many of them go in circles.
In Colossal Cave, you have to take note of letting them know there are puzzles, especially about figuring out which object to use in what situation, but most puzzles are, to use a nice word, “quirky.” Others might simply describe them as irrational, or, if they use another generous word, “eccentric.”
As Colossal Cave goes on, you realize that it’s all about exploration, finding objects and treasures, using the right objects at the right time, and finding your way around the world.
you shall not pass
After wandering around the caves for a while, I put my Meta Quest 2 virtual reality headset on and do other things that are more fun than playing Colossal Cave.
You come back to it the next day, hoping your second session will be more fun now that you’re inside the cave system, you discover that although the game offers nine save slots, it doesn’t have an autosave feature, and you realize this has to be the way Mistaken Others Staying hypothetically faithful to the point-and-click fantasy game the original was never the same.
Curses I say! Curses!
You remember that, at $39.99, this game cost as much as Resident Evil 4, and you shudder as you imagine the disappointment it will bring to anyone who buys it and misses the redemption window.
You conclude that the game is a taste of nostalgia for older VR gamers who will recognize the name of a game mostly known for being around first, and that this version offers neither text-based authenticity from the original nor the fun you can have. Games that cost half as much from the Meta Store.
Faulty by any measure you can imagine, Colossal Cave is a colossal cavity. It is a point-and-click port of a text-based game that refuses to acknowledge the medium to which it was ported.
It might appeal to nostalgia fans with cash to burn
boring as hell