Once again, we find ourselves in a cave, obsessively matching magical colored gems.
It’s doubtful that anyone these days gets pumped upon hearing the words “match-3,” but a handful of developers keep cranking them out for the genre’s devoted fans. A couple of years ago, developer Wellore Games released Enchanted Cavern, a stolid match-3 that while reasonably entertaining, did little to invigorate the genre. This month, they follow that title up with Enchanted Caverns 2 which sad to say, does even less.
The first Enchanted Cavern had good-looking graphics, a sleepy, John Tesh-ish musical score and some fairly predictable match-the-colored-gem gameplay. Enchanted Cavern 2 has all of that, and in fact quotes its predecessor so faithfully in every respect, it might as well be the same game. What differences there are both add and detract from the design of the first game and in the end, the good and the bad are something of a wash.
The first game attempted, however briefly, to create some kind of context with a narrative blurb that explained your reason for exploring a long-hidden enchanted cavern. Enchanted Cavern 2 doesn’t bother and just sends you—through a disjointed introductory cutscene—through a temple, down a hallway in someone’s house and into a twilit room full of archeological clutter where you inexplicably start matching colored gems. From there, your progress is tracked through a series of dig-site settings that don’t make any narrative sense. To be fair, successful match-3 games don’t exactly rely on having killer narratives. It’s just that here the lazy way the intro is handled foreshadows the lazy way the rest of the game plays out.
Like the first Enchanted Cavern, (and unlike other match-3 titles that have you shifting gems around to create a match) Enchanted Cavern 2 merely has you click wherever three or more same-colored gems appear next to each other. Once matched, the gems vanish and the rest of the gems fall, creating new matches so you can click again. This approach requires very little thought or strategy and because of it, is fairly mind-numbing until mid-way through the game when complicated maps make match-making a bit more challenging.
Aside from this simplification of the match-3 mechanic, Enchanted Cavern 2 fails to bring anything new to the genre. Most match-3 games are built on a handful of foundation blocks: match-3 gems, chain combos, power-ups (like bombs, time-augmenters, horizontal/vertical gem destroyers, and special gems that destroy gems of corresponding color) and obstacles (like unusual map formations or frozen, stone or chained blocks) that must be worked around. Enchanted Cavern 2 dutifully ticks all the boxes by including all these things but the result is uninspired. At least this time the developer tries to shake things up by presenting you with two difficulty options—Casual (with timer) and Relaxed (without timer) and by creating three different game modes: Adventure, Puzzle and Endless.
Adventure mode is equivalent to the match-3 of the first Enchanted Cavern, broken up by scenes of archeological or tropical grandeur. At intervals, these static scenes activate a little bit more, lighting torches and revealing ancient statues. The developer deserves some credit here for creating beautiful artwork; the scenes as they come increasingly to life, are fairly magical. The developer also get a thumbs up for attempting to add interest to the game with its new Puzzle mode (unlockable only after completing Adventure mode) which challenges you to remove all the colored gems from more intricately-contrived maps. However, the developer loses cool points though for the inclusion of a redundant, lackluster Endless mode.
Overall, Enchanted Cavern 2 neither fails to live up to, nor goes out of its way to improve upon, the first Enchanted Cavern. It unapologetically presents some solid match-3 gameplay and a modestly entertaining new Puzzle mode, and as such, promises a fair amount of fun to players new to the genre. Match-3 veterans and owners of the original Enchanted Cavern however, will find little reason to purchase or play it.