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For: iPad   Also on: Android, iPhone

A new breed

Product: Cavemania | Developer: BonusXP | Publisher: Yodo1 | Format: iPad | Genre: Strategy, Tower defence | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Cavemania iPad, thumbnail 1
Surprising as it now seems, match-three gameplay wasn't invented for touchscreen devices.

The way it uses direct screen interaction makes it an ideal genre for such hardware, however, and this combined with its simplicity are two reasons for the current glut of titles.

But while the likes of Candy Crush Saga and Puzzle & Dragons rule the top grossing charts, can match-three developers come up with anything new in terms of gameplay?

Long, long ago

US outfit BonusXP thinks so, with its designers drawing on their experience with PC strategy games such as Age of Empires to produce Cavemania.

This genesis reveals itself at the start of each level as you're presented with a multi-layered goal that you have to complete in order to win gold and unlock the next level.

These aren't abstract tasks such as matching 20 sets of a certain symbol, however. Instead, they involve more complex moves such as making matches on specific grid locations (or turning locked desert squares into useful playable squares, as the game describes it).

Given the caveman theme and RTS-inspired gameplay, the materials you're matching include gold, wood, and food, while you also have to deal with era enemies such as sabre-toothed cats and dinosaurs.

Raise an army

The specific, nitty gritty nature of the tasks allows Cavemania's designers to introduce a twist: you can drop playable units onto the match-three grid.

IAPs explained
Cavemania's hard currency is gold, with bundles ranging from £1.99 / $2.99 for a small pack to £6.99 / $9.99 for a large pack.

You can also buy consumable items, including extra turns, extra lives, plus food, crystal, and boost turn packs (each 69p / 99c).

Finally, there's a permanent double gold multipler, which doubles up all the gold you earn in the game. That is priced £1.99 / $2.99.
These range from Villagers to Warriors and Hunters, and each has to be unlocked by progressing through the game. To deploy one you need to have matched a certain number of resources during a level. Once units are available, you can then place them on the map and move them around.

This direct manipulation of resources is combined with each unit's special power - something you earn when you make a match-four and get a bonus crystal. For example, the Worker can transform up to three desert squares, while the Warrior's club knocks enemies away.

At the pinnacle of this gameplay sits your chieftain, who acts a bit like the king in chess. He's powerful in that he can move in any direction, but if he's killed it's level over. Of course, the other restriction is the total number of moves in which you have to complete each level's goals.

Your move

Being a free-to-play game, Cavemania does allows you to buy more moves, as well as bonus crystals, wildcards, and more gold, which is used to upgrade various aspects of your units - ranging from useful attributes like attack and defence to cosmetic ones.

Nevertheless, at its heart Cavemania is a game about learning tactical skills, and in the current market that's both its strength and weakness.

An audience attuned to the fast presentation of a Candy Crush Saga will become bored and frustrated by its pacing and skill demands, while an audience raised on the likes of Age of Empires will enjoy its tight gameplay and - for a mobile game - relatively tough difficulty curve.

You pays your money, and you makes your choice.
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 25 September 2013
Slow to get going, Cavemania nevertheless brings a new level of tactical skill to match-three gaming
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