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Cally's Caves 4 (PC) artwork

Cally's Caves 4 (PC) review


"I wasn't going to go down another easy road with Cally, but I caved"


Despite the name, Cally of Callyís Caves 4 doesnít appear to spend much time in caves. What she does do, is run-and-gun while commanding an impressive arsenal in nearly the exact same fashion as in Callyís Caves 3. There are some aesthetic differences; Cally looks older and more stylish this time around, and the gameís general look is slightly less cutesy to reflect the eponymous characterís relative maturity. But generally speaking, this fourth installment is simply more of the same and if you're a fan of any of the previous games in the series (especially the third) you are probably not going to have a problem with that.

The seriesí developers know what attracts their fans to the canon by now: itís the fact that you can level up everything, which is something they shout at us, right on the Steam store page. Thatís what this game -- and its predecessors -- is all about. There are 11 weapons to power up here: from the basic, default pistol to the tried-and-true shotgun; from the homing sniper rifle, to the powerful but short-ranged flamethrower. Using weapons levels them up over time. So the strategy is, pick something you like, use the hell out of it and before you know it, it will be maxed out and you will be wrecking shop.

Then youíll probably get tired of that gun, and youíll pick another and power it up, and so on. Enemies are varied, including your garden variety mohawked thugs, backflipping ninjas, and murderous chefs who whip up vitality restoring baked goods in the midst of dying to stay alive. Bosses are large and distinct, boast multiple attacks, and take some time before going up in flames. And I know that I'm making Callyís Caves 4 sound like a world-beater, and I have to catch myself here, because it's not quite that.



The chief drawback in all this, is that Callyís Caves 4 and those which came before it, are nearly devoid of challenge. Your vitality bar builds to become so substantial, and enemies drop hearts so often, you won't even need to purchase the perishable items for use when you're in a tricky spot, because that tricky spot never comes.

Furthermore, each enemy drops a shit ton of currency towards buying useful items at Callyís home base in Avalon, towards making you even stronger, and this fact, when considered along with the dropped hearts, found perishable items (energy drinks, hot dogs and the like), and easily powered up guns, leaves us with a game whose difficulty curve is a straight line at best, and at worst, a game that get easier as you go along. Your personal progression simply outpaces any challenge ramp-up the game might offer along the way.

This ease of play would make any title feel disposable, forgettable; you can pick it up and enjoy the running and shooting and jumping for awhile, but youíll put it down at any given time, satisfied that you've seen enough, because it doesn't ramp up in intensity, ever. You are never really in danger. Callyís Caves 4 is an attractive, retro side-scroller on its face, but retro was never this easy, never this forgiving. And should you spend enough time with it, forgettable can just as easily become tiresome.



To wit: a great deal of jumping is asked of you, but I didnít come across a single situation where a failed jump led to death. So most of the jumping is just in the name of exploration, which is down to finding and opening treasure chests full of the currency that isnít as crucial as it should be. The game provides autofire, but itís at such a slow rate that youíll quickly abandon it and rely on pounding away at the fire button instead. So thereís a lot of jumping, and a lot of shooting, and very little at stake to justify demanding so much from your poor, poor fingers.

It doesnít help that enemies are bullet sponges -- every single one of them. A tiny, inconsequential turret will seem to take the same amount of time as a trained ninja to put down, and the difference in efficacy between the starter pistol and a fully powered up bazooka in doing the job is laughably and disappointingly negligible. These are all unfortunate design choices which have made the trip from the previous game. That said, two major improvements have been implemented. Enemy AI, for one: creeping up on foes from behind causes them to turn around in rather short order to begin attacking you, a fact that caught me off guard the first time it raised its head. And Cally is finally a strong swimmer, and right off the bat. In Callyís Caves 3, simply touching the water would mean instant death. Looks like the swimming lessons have paid off. Ironically, Cally's newfound comfort in the water just adds to the sense that, unless you muck things up considerably, itís awfully tough to die.

If you loved Callyís Caves 3, youíll certainly love this fourth entry: it's understandable that some casual gamers just want to enjoy gathering collectibles and the admittedly addictive nature of all the powering up. I would also think that Callyís Caves 4 would appeal to younger players (who arenít already series' fans) given its very forgiving play. Every other potential fanbase that might gravitate toward the game on the basis of its colourful visuals, cool looking bosses and considerable weapon variety, will be put off by the ease of play and the tedium that dealing with ubiquitous bullet sponges will surely bring.

3/5

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (February 10, 2018)

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EmP posted February 10, 2018:

You switch between number and numerals a few times throughout. Make your mind up! Is it 3 or III? No one knows.

Good work on reviewing a decent sounding pick up and play title. I know a lot of people aren't looking for the rock hard platformers of our youth, so making that point clear (while suggesting it didn't work that much for you) was well explained throughout.

Putting your own screens in, too. Perhaps if this keeps up I'll have time to write my own stuff again someday...
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Masters posted February 11, 2018:

Thanks, dude. I don't know where I was getting the Roman numerals from. Anyway, on to the next one towards clearing this backlog.

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