Back in April, a fantastic little title hit the App Store called Solomon's Keep [99¢/Lite]. It was a dual-stick dungeon crawler that had you ascending through randomized dungeon floors filled with swarms of baddies as you leveled up your wizard collecting loot and gaining new abilities. We really enjoyed Solomon's Keep in our review, and the game got even better with an excellent 2.0 update. Now, developer Raptisoft (who also gave us the currently free platformer Hoggy [Link]) has created an endless survival version of Solomon's Keep titled Solomon's Boneyard [99¢]. The game uses the familiar mechanics of Solomon's Keep but offers a different enough experience that warrants a look even if you already own the original.
Solomon's Boneyard takes place 23 years before the events of Solomon's Keep. An adolescent Solomon Dark is learning the ways of dark magic and disturbing the graves at a local graveyard, and it's up to a group of newly graduated wizards to put a stop to him. You'll start the game by choosing from one of seven characters (three of which are unlockable) who each have their own unique set of abilities. There's a wizard with a focus on lightning attacks, one focused in fire, one who deals with ice, and so forth. You can also choose to purchase some helpful items from a shop prior to entering the boneyard, like additional potions or abilities to help you on your quest. Fans of Solomon's Keep will recognize these items and offensive abilities as they are essentially the same here.
Once you've chosen your character and geared up, you'll head to the graveyard where you catch Solomon digging up graves. He then sends his undead minions after you, and you'll fight off the endless waves of increasingly difficult enemies while trying to last as long as possible. The same enemies you face in Solomon's Keep are here too, including various skeletons, zombies, and bouncing flaming demons. Defeating these enemies gives you experience, and each time you level up you'll be able to choose from three available upgrades to your weapons or abilities. Additionally, special items can be dropped by the enemies that can give you an instant upgrade or other special attribute. The main goal in Solomon's Boneyard is to defeat as many enemies as possible in a given game, but the gold you collect from them is persistent and can be used to buy items from the shop for use in subsequent playthroughs.
Solomon's Boneyard is also a very attractive game. There is only the one graveyard map, but it's fairly large with obstacles to deal with like open graves and headstones. A neat dynamic lighting effect similar to Helsing's Fire [99¢] is used that casts real-time shadows from the gravestones and enemies in the game, giving the whole graveyard a dark and foreboding feel. Each of the wizard characters also have their own unique look, with different colors and styles of clothing as well as different body types and genders. It's a nice bit of variation compared to the single wizard character from Solomon's Keep, and owners of 3rd generation devices or higher will notice a higher graphical fidelity due to anti-aliasing.
Solomon's Boneyard doesn't claim to be anything but what it is, an endless survival-style version of Solomon's Keep. The seven different characters are fun to play with, and each game doesn't usually last more than 15 or 20 minutes compared to the hour or so it takes to get through Solomon's Keep. There's also a nice high score dynamic, as upon dying in a game your score is based on total number of kills, character level reached, and the amount of time you lasted during that run. These are tracked through OpenFeint with a separate leaderboard for each character, as well as a number of interesting achievements to unlock. If you enjoyed Solomon's Keep, then you should also enjoy the distilled gameplay experience offered in Solomon's Boneyard. Impressions in our forums are overwhelmingly positive, and if you like dual-stick survival shooters in general this is one you shouldn't miss.
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