You may not have heard of it before Mega cave adventurebut if you’ve played a video game in the past 45 years, then you’re following in the footsteps of that game.
The original 1976 game was one of the first full-text adventure games and the first to be popular. Every time you solve a puzzle creatively using your inventory or environment, in everything from Zork to Resident Evil to Cave Digger, you see some of Colossal Cave’s creative DNA.
This fall, the game returns as Colossal Cave 3D, A ‘Reimagined’ version coming to PC, Nintendo Switch and Meta Quest 2. It is developed by Cygnus Entertainment, a company specially founded by adventure game legends Kane and Roberta Williams, better known as King’s Quest and Phantasmagoria.
Speaking to Colossal Cave 3D artist Marcus Maximus Mera at PAX West reveals that the entire project started by what amounts to pure chance. Mira got into old computing as a hobby last year and bought a small batch from the Facebook Marketplace, which included an unusually rare version of the original King’s Quest.
This brought Mira to a presentation at a museum where he happened to meet and befriend Ken Williams. Over the course of several months, he encouraged Myra Williams to come out of retirement for a new project, which ended up being this new edition of Colossal Cave. Over time, they persuaded Roberta Williams to come on the trip. Williams is fully funding this new version of the game and said they will decide after completion whether or not to retire.
Cygnus had a booth at last weekend’s PAX West show in Seattle, where attendees can play a sound part of the pre-alpha game Colossal Cave 3D, either in VR on Quest 2 or in “pie mode” on the Switch.
Before I sat down with the headset on, Mira was anxious to focus on one word: “reimagining it.” Just like last year’s VR version of the Myst, Cygnus’ designers were keen to reinvent as little of this particular wheel as possible. Colossal Cave 3D is exactly what its title indicates: the original Colossal Cave adventure, providing a graphical interface for the first time in over 45 years.
In keeping with original designer Will Crowther’s nature as an old-school D&D/cave enthusiast, the original Colossal Cave was as free of intrigue as things. Colossal Cave 3D carries this tradition forward: you are a largely invisible adventurer, who has heard rumors of ancient treasures inside the caves below you. Your job is to find a way inside, collect those treasures, deal with hostile cave dwellers and try to get out alive.
Colossal Cave 3D contains the same obstacles, monsters, challenges and loot as the original text-only version, complete with all the same solutions translated into a modern user interface.
The version I played in Quest 2 at PAX had live action set on the left console, though teleport options are also available. To interact with the environment, there is an on-screen cursor attached to the right controller, reminiscent of the multi-purpose cursor you find in old LucasArts adventure games. By default it will check everything it points to, but clicking on one of the face buttons turns that into a “take” command. To use an item, you can open your inventory, click on it with the cursor, and drag the resulting code onto the corresponding eco object.
All the original monsters were faithfully reproduced, as were the caves themselves. There is a certain amount of fervor to the environments which seems like something you might see on a fan project. Every inch of the cave and every random NPC has been carefully translated into 3D, with hand-placed textures and sculpted models.
I hadn’t played Colossal Cave for years before I sat down to try it out at PAX, but there are plenty of 3D games out there that don’t quite match my imagination. It was like watching a movie adapted from a novel I had read in parts. The snake, for example, has always been depicted as a rattle, unlike Cygnus’ depiction of a Rottweiler-sized cobra scurrying in and out of existence.
There’s also a nice dose of old-fashioned adventure game logic at work. Colossal Cave 3D is still ready to kill you if you don’t play your cards right and already felt that some of its solutions were wildly random in 1979, let alone now.
Along the same lines, this feels like an expedition into a wide range of video game history, enabled and expanded by the shift to virtual reality. Every weird puzzle, running joke or weird solution left a mark on the medium. Colossal Cave 3D is still an absorbing VR adventure in its own right, but its historical impact gives it a second layer. It’s old wine in a new bottle, sure, but people are used to it really looks like This particular wine, and you have to admit, it’s a beautiful bottle.
Giant Cave 3D It is scheduled to release on Quest 2, Nintendo Switch, and PC later this year.