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Review: Cally’s Caves 3 brings old-school platforming to your iPhone

This game’s hard as nails, but fortunately so is Cally — and she’s armed to the teeth

Price: Free + optional $4.99/£3.99 IAP
Size: 65.5 MB
Version: 1.1.2
Developer: Jordan Pearson

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Poor Cally. Her parents just won’t stay un-kidnapped, so yet again the pigtailed kid with a surprisingly large collection of high-powered weaponry must travel deep into enemy territory, in order to save her folks.

This is side-on old-school platforming and shooting action of the best kind. You get graphics and sound that could have been lifted from a classic console, and the sort of on-screen virtual controls that usually make our thumbs cry. But in Cally’s Caves 3, everything seems to click on the iPhone, and you won’t find yourself cursing the virtual buttons.

Instead, you’ll be cursing your own abilities (most of the time) and a few aspects of the game, because this is one tough cookie. Although each level is fairly small, they’re all packed with enemies that initially take a surprising amount of damage before they keel over. Plenty are also peppered with traps, ready to kill Cally in an instant.

Shooting someone in the back. Not sporting, but he has a huge gun!

Shooting someone in the back. Not sporting, but he does have a huge gun!

Being that this is a mobile title, there’s no messing about with ‘three lives and then game over’. In fact, Cally is blessed with a fairly generous number of ‘hearts’. There is, however, a fairly irritating checkpoint system. Die before getting to the next one and you’ll have to play through levels you’ve already completed.

Early on, this can be very trying, especially if you hit upon one of the game’s difficulty spikes. However, this at least teaches you to play a rather more considered and tactical game, rather than bounding about the place, without a care in the world. And once you’ve found some extra powers (such as triple jump and the ability to swim) and souped up some weapons (by using them to shoot more foes), the going becomes a little easier. Well, at least until you meet one of the giant bosses, which will almost certainly horribly kill you during your first few attempts to best it.

What big teeth you have. RUN AWAY!

What big teeth you have. RUN AWAY!

Persevere and get into the rhythm of Cally’s Caves 3, though, and you’ll be sucked in. You’ll figure ‘just one more checkpoint’ and you can put the game down, by which point you’ll have blazed through several and wonder where the afternoon went. All the more astonishing, then, that the core game is entirely free, which is absurdly generous. If you fancy supporting the dev, there’s a one-off IAP for new game modes: New Game+, where you can raise the level of your weapons further and face-off against new enemies; and Survival, which pits you against 150 waves of madness.

By the time you’re done, thumbs frazzled by your arduous quest, you’ll wish there was one extra IAP along the lines of ‘have a nice little lie-down while Cally and her now-rescued parents watch a bit of telly’.