Enticing any player to come back again and again for more gameplay is never easy. Creating a balance between rewarding your audience can be tricky for a lot of titles to produce. New weapons or pieces of lore and challenging them with something difficult is one way to do it. Another route is to generate addiction where the player enjoys the grind through every level and wants to keep leveling up. Make them determined to unlock skills and shiny methods of slaughter.
Cally’s Caves 3 is more addictive than any hard drug on the planet. It’s almost as if a black hole was created inside the game which absorbs nothing but your time. A pixelated side-scrolling platformer action-shooter RPG, it has a great mixture of genres. This game draws inspiration from classics like Metroid and Castlevania in earnest. It introduces the player to a ten year old girl running around with a sword bigger than she is, an entire arsenal of weapons, and makes that seem normal.
While not heavily story driven, a lot of context is derived during the adventure from the characters you meet along your journey to rescue your parents. Continual mentions of the previous installments, which are only available on iOS, are speckled throughout. Aside from having to bring out your inner Sherlock Holmes to figure out what’s going on, the game urges the player forward as Cally sets out on her grand quest without a second thought, grabbing a pistol as she exits her house.
Every element of this game is built around grinding up to the highest level of health, weapons and abilities. The developers clearly wanted players to enjoy the raw empowerment of firing a triple-barreled heat seeking RPG (among other things). As you venture through the somewhat pleasant forests next to Merryfeather Village, every shot you make with your guns inch the bar upward slightly. Each level grants bonus benefits and eventually changes the shape of the weapon itself. Max level is reached at twenty for any gun, but you find yourself wanting to suffer through the reality of grinding the same boss for half an hour because the final form is so tantalizingly close.
Coins dropped from defeated enemies allow you to purchase consumables or upgrades for Cally from the shops that appear in between levels. Blue orbs grant you another heart if you collect enough. This game really shines when you start amassing guns, however. While some are mandatory (like the flamethrower and spike gun), the vast majority are hidden in specific levels, waiting for the player to find them.
In terms of difficulty, Cally’s Caves 3 isn’t a beast to be feared in the same manner that many platformers are. It’s not a push over by any means either, as every death takes away funds from your precious wallet. Really, it’s only as hard as you make it as it’s easy to shoot yourself in the foot (figuratively). A poorly timed jump or panicked weapon switch can spell instant death when you’re facing off against a small group of enemies coming at you from all sides. Strangely, the rate at which you gain godlike power is incredibly fast. Because as soon as you make it past the second stage, you’re able to effectively repeat a couple of crucial levels that give you access to fast cash and easy health upgrades.
Beyond the main campaign, there are several options to choose from when it comes to progression. Primarily, there’s new “game+” mode. It’s the same as a regular game except that you’ve got your upgrades to bring with you and all the enemies have double health. Then there’s “survival mode” which tests your ability to last without healing, as well as “Bera’s Quest” and “Melvin’s Zone”. The latter two are both adorable game modes that can land you some serious cash if you’re daring enough.
Cally’s Caves 3 is a sparkling gem in the early days of 2016. It’s a whirlwind of gunfire, swords and gold that will take you for a spin and leaving you wanting more. From the pacing to the mechanics, everything about it will draw you back in whether you like it or not, because as soon as you start playing… you belong to the game.