Imagination proves itself a person’s best friend and greatest enemy in The Lost Cave of the Ozarks.
Filling In The Dark Unknown
Created by the one-man developer RubberGardner, the game takes place across two interweaving timelines. In the 1880’s, a day spent playing in the forest quickly turns deadly as a young boy tumbles into an unknown cave system. Lost and alone, he has no choice but to press forward, traveling through the pitch black tunnels and waterways armed only with the fading light of a lantern.
Each creak and echo could be anything to his young mind, and his imagination is more than happy to fill in the dark spaces around him. Sometimes, it serves as a boon of hope, adorning the walls in holy statues and treasure like an ancient cathedral; other times, it places hazards and undead horrors on the boy’s path, real enough to his mind to harm or even kill him.
To see him to safety, players have to explore and solve puzzles throughout the cave system, dodging hazards and making their way toward treasures and potential escape routes. Perceived horrors provide obstacles to outmaneuver and avoid, ranging in size from crawling wretches to cyclopian behemoths. All the while, players will find clues of another poor soul who might be in the darkness with them, for better or worse.
Meanwhile, a tour guide of that same cave system in modern day Ozark, Missouri tries to piece together what happened to this long lost child. New evidence of the boy’s struggles offer the chance to illuminate the mystery, and after over a century of speculation and here-say, the truth could finally set the public’s conspiracies to rest.
Exploring The Depths Of Tragedy
It’s a novel concept presented through a stellar hand painted art style, but also one that provides commentary on a real-life urban legend. In the 1880’s, a young boy truly did wander into the forests of Ozark and never returned. No one knows what happened to him, and more than one narrative of his fate has emerged in the decades that passed – including your standard account of supernatural events from a self-proclaimed untrustworthy source.
Much like the public who has eaten up the story over the years, the Lost Cave of the Ozark’s two protagonists give a good view on the powers of imagination. Where one uses it to cope with a dismal situation, the other uses it to fuel their drive toward the truth, creating a story to fill the blanks of their home’s history. It’s a fine way of looking at a long-held local legend, and still provides an empathetic perspective to a lost child who suffered an unfortunate fate.
Admittedly, there isn’t much to go off of past the game’s one trailer and some preview images, and updates have been scarce in the seven months since it was revealed. The fact that the developer is creating the game entirely on his own is definitely a major reason for this, and it probably won’t be finished anytime soon.
All the same, The Lost Cave of the Ozarks has a fantastic concept and shows real potential as a title to watch in 2018 and beyond.