Innocuous brainteaser Enchanted Cavern makes as good a starting point as any for getting one’s head around the match-three category. Think ultra-simple and intuitive play mechanics, attractive (if unspectacular) visuals, and a soothing soundtrack that readily compliments the straightforwrd, stress-reducing action.
Should you have ever enjoyed this type of title before however, pause, stop reading here, and go download Ancient Quest of Saqqarah – you’ll thank us later.
To wit, the current contender brings literally nothing new to the table, instead remaining content to satisfy puzzle game enthusiasts’ most basic needs. Starting with the merest wisp of an underlying storyline – introduced via a well-scripted, if poorly-budgeted, cinematic sequence which reveals that an ancient, long-lost cave needs exploring – it’s obvious that several corners were cut here.
Sadly, the biggest concessions come in terms of hands-on addictiveness, with the outing’s all-too-formulaic proceedings guaranteed to feel instantly familiar to anybody who’s ever enjoyed similar desktop diversions dating practically all the way back to the original.
But enough sideways talk… here’s how the blow-by-blow action actually shapes up from a hands-on standpoint. Press play (yes, there’s only one game mode), and you’ll visit a series of individual, standalone scenarios in sequence, each of which contains a grid filled with precious-gem-containing tiles.
To win, you merely need to remove all colored tiles from the screen by making matches of three or more adjacent, similarly-hued stones atop them before a ticking timer runs out, or maneuver specifics objects to the bottom of the playfield. Doing so takes but a single click, which causes automatically-connecting groups of highlighted jewels to disappear and higher-situated counterparts to come tumbling downwards to fill in any gaps.
Power-ups are, of course, present. Featured selections include the obligatory bomb; extras which destroy all squares extending outward in a horizontal or vertical line; time-boosting bonuses; and, naturally, gizmos which eradicate all stones of the same color. Likewise, the further you go, the more challenges are introduced. Think tiles wrapped in metal links whose chains must be broken before they become clearable; monoliths you’ll have to level by eliminating nearby groupings; and squares that require multiple matches be performed atop them before they finally lose several shades of highlighting.
Impressive and original the selection isn’t to say the least, just like actual scenarios themselves which – while surprisingly well-crafted – still prove highly repetitious. What’s more, some frustration is also inherently built into the experience. Even early on into the adventure, it’s inevitable that orphaned gems will pop up and keep you furiously jabbing at the mouse long after the rest of the screen’s been cleared of targets.
Such failings merely serving to cut to the root of the problem at-hand, of course: Despite the care which obviously went into its development, this is a highly derivative offering versus inspired piece of work. As such, it’s a perfectly fine, but generic genre sampling that’ll leave many players indifferent.
It’s a shame, really, since given Enchanted Cavern‘s general level of cohesiveness and workmanlike construction, well… Let’s just say between solid stage design and snazzy sparkle/mist effects, its creators seem adept enough at delivering on the basics to warrant a shot at building something more complex. Whether they’ll actually be given the chance – or if anyone will truly care – though, is anyone’s guess. Destined to fade from memory as quickly as it’s installed and won, this 47-level, occasional bonus puzzle stage-touting offering pleases without excelling, ensuring the outing only minor, fleeting success.