Back when PDAs were a businessman’s essential tool, the game Bubblet became one of the favorite puzzle games of pencil pushers and the common consumer alike. Its simple match-2-or-higher gameplay mechanic made us tap our styluses more than any other program before. Now, Alawar Entertainment, who brought us the game Farm Frenzy, aims to bring back that beauty in simplicity with their new game, Enchanted Cavern.
Enchanted Cavern boasts a collection of 47 levels spaced in five episodes, with four bonuses and nine logic challenges along the way. The premise of the game is simple: you have found a cavern with a mother-lode of gems within, but that cave is blocked, and the only way to gain passage is to match groups of precious stones, which will unlock the treasures within. Alawar Entertainment has put a lot of work into this game, and it definitely shows- the illustrations are beautiful, the graphics are seamless, and everything flows as you expect it to.
The beauty of this game, as mentioned, is in the simplicity. You gain points by matching the same color of gems in groups of three or more. As you remove the gems (depending on the game mode), more gems drop from the top of the board, which will hopefully match up with gems towards the bottom. To pass to the next level, you complete a variety of tasks, such as breaking the blocks behind the gems, collecting all of the gems, and eliminating certain types of gems. Once this task is completed, you are given a ranking based on the amount of time it took you to complete the task as well as how many points you were able to collect.
During the first few levels, it is quite easy to reach the level of expert- however, the difficulty curve quickly spikes as the shape of the game board changes dramatically, and you’ll have to do more than just random tapping to complete your goal. At times, you may find that there are no more matches to be made- once this happens, the game-board resets, and you’ll have newly-randomized gems to work with.
To help you complete this goal, Alawar Entertainment throws a wrench into the classic match-3 mechanic. There are a variety of power-up gems to help you along the way, which can be activated by matching them with gems of the same color. It is much faster to complete your goal when a power-up gem explodes and removes all the gems around it, or when all the gems of a certain color are removed. You receive more power-ups as you progress through the game, which also give a progressively more powerful effect.
The music that Alawar has included is quite good for a game such as this, but it can become quite repetitive during long sessions. One of the features that I was happy to see was the ability to play your own music while collecting gems. There’s no convenient button to do so, but as long as you start your music of choice before entering the game, you can tap along to your favorite band, and can switch between songs by pressing the home button twice quickly, which launches the iPhone OS’s built-in dialogue box.
All in all, Enchanted Cavern is a beautiful match-3 puzzle game with a whole lot going for it. I enjoyed struggling to beat the time limit through the later levels in the game as the board changed drastically in shape and difficulty. At $2.99, this game may seem a little expensive for a puzzle game to some, but I find that it’s definitely worth the price. If you’re an avid puzzle fan or just looking for a quick, mentally-challenging pick-up-and-play game, Enchanted Cavern is definitely your cup of tea.