The Enchanted Cave

"The Enchanted Cave is fun to play, simple as that. Its presentation leaves much to be desired, but there's an enjoyable game behind its rough exterior."

A few years back, I spent many hours playing the original The Enchanted Cave as a free web browser game. Busting my way down floors, picking up loot and discovering artefacts kept me, you might say, enchanted the whole way through. With some improvements, that same game is now available for purchase on Android. Is it worth spending your hard earned 99 cents on? Let's find out!

The premise of The Enchanted Cave is simple: reach floor 100. There's no story or characterisation, just that straightforward goal. At first glance, it may look appear to be a roguelike, but that isn't strictly true. While floors may appear in a varied order, their layout is not randomly generated. As such, you will start to recognise certain levels as you progress. Enemy types and loot are randomised though, so seeing what's down the next set of stairs remains exciting.

Before we go any further, let's get this out of the way: The Enchanted Cave is an ugly game. The main character lacks detail, enemies look bland and are often repeated over ten or more floors, and variation in environment is superficial at best. The inclusion of a new HUD for quick use of potions and spells is useful, but those giant yellow buttons are truly horrid.

If you can dismiss the low quality visuals as a minor inconvenience, then I'm happy to say the core gameplay is far more pleasing. Working your way down floors has become more of a maze since the browser original. Each floor is still quite small, but a zoomed in camera means you can't see the entirety of it at once. I feel this is an improvement, since it allows for some experimentation to find the best way to the stairs down. You simply tap to move, and the pathfinding is excellent. Walk onto an enemy and automated combat begins. Your character will keep attacking until one side is victorious, though you can toss attack and healing spells into the mix as you wish.

There is no leveling system, so your power comes entirely from the gear you have equipped and the stat-increasing gems you can collect. Plentiful red chests hand out standard gear, while gold chests contain artefacts that are retained even after death. Without any experience to earn, monsters function as hazards without benefits. It's always a better option to fight as few enemies as possible to save your health. Of course, many will block your ways to optional treasure chests, and it's a gamble to know whether it's worth the effort to open it.

Every ten floors, you will reach a checkpoint that is home to a store where you can buy new equipment and potions. If you die, you have the option of beginning the game again from any store/checkpoint floor, along with any artefacts and magic you picked up in previous games. The catch? If you die before using a wings item to escape the dungeon with your loot, you lose everything you had. Deciding whether or not to fight one last enemy or call a retreat is thrilling and highly strategic. The Enchanted Cave provides an excellent sense of progression as you retry floors with better gear you won from previous playthroughs. There's a real sense of accomplishment that goes along with using new gear to take down difficult enemies.

In this iteration, however, the difficulty can be a problem. Over the two or so weeks I played, the game was constantly updated via Google Play with what I assume were balancing tweaks. Each one improved the problems, but difficulty spikes are still rampant. When I first began play, high-level vampires were killing me in one hit when other enemies on the floor only dealt mediocre damage. This was later fixed, but a greater problem came with the boss of the game who could kill me in two hits, even when I wore the best armour the game has to offer. From what I understand, this issue is being addressed, though other minor, less game-breaking, balance issues are still around. These are puzzling issues, since they didn't exist in the original web browser game.

The Enchanted Cave is fun to play, simple as that. Its presentation leaves much to be desired, but there's an enjoyable game behind its rough exterior. It strikes me as odd that more effort wasn't put into improving this Android port, but perhaps that is because the developer is putting most of his effort into working on The Enchanted Cave 2. If you're up for some simple but addictive dungeon-crawling on the go, The Enchanted Cave is worth a purchase. My suggestion? Try it out on the web first and see what you think.

© 2014 Dustin Auxier. All rights reserved.

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