Going back and playing the first Cally's Caves game, it's stunning how far this series has come in such a short span of time. While the core action gameplay is solid, just about everything else in the game looks and feels, well, like the small indie game that it is. Cally's Caves 2 [Free] upped the ante significantly, not just in terms of presentation but also in gameplay mechanics, adding a compelling Ratchet & Clank-style weapon upgrade system and smoothing out the overall difficulty. A quick glance at Cally's Caves 3 [Free] would make you think you're getting more of the same from the second game, but although the game may not appear all that different at first, I'm going to go as far as to say that this third game represents almost as significant a leap over Cally's Caves 2 as that game had made over the original.

The story set-up is familiar, and the game makes no attempt to hide that. Cally's parents have been kidnapped by the evil Dr. Herbert, and it's up to our gun- and sword-wielding heroine to rescue them. You'll once again enter the cave system in Cally's backyard, and the mysterious musician Lloyd is back again to give his advice. There are 120 levels in the game in total, which in pure numbers is slightly higher than the second game's 110 levels, but the stages also tend to be bigger than the ones found in the previous game, making for a much longer adventure overall. The weapon count is as robust as ever, with 12 different weapons that can be upgraded and modified to your heart's content. You can also find other power-ups for Cally, including a triple-jump, a roll, and a swimming ability.

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That's what you get for free with ad support, mind you. If you're willing to sink in $4.99, you can get access to two new modes. The first is New Game+, which allows you to play through the game again with a powered-up Cally. It's not exactly the same game, though, as there are new enemies added to the levels, and you're now able to raise the level of your weapons to 20 instead of maxing out at 10. If you make it through this mode, you'll be treated to a different ending, as well. It's almost like a second game that you can buy within the game. The other new mode is the survival mode, which tasks you with surviving 150 waves of enemies. There's a nice bonus in it for anyone who can.  Buying that bundle will also unlock the sniper rifle weapon and remove the ads from the game. I prefer this set-up to the second game's IAP, as it not only results in more game to play, but it also doesn't affect the balance of the main story mode the way the IAP extras in the last game did.

It's just one way the design of Cally's Caves 3 feels vastly improved over the previous titles. The first game was punishingly difficult, only allowing you to checkpoint after beating a boss. The second game swung too far the other way, giving you a checkpoint after every level. This time, there are a few checkpoints placed in each world, which strikes a nice balance. Losing has consequences, but never intolerable ones. The shop system has also been overhauled. Instead of pulling it down from your menu at any time, shops are set along the path of each world. They're manned by a new character, Herbert's son. This adds a little extra personality to the game, but it also means you can't just hit the shop anytime you want, consequence-free. That's important because of another addition to this installment, consumable items. Typically taking the form of foods or drinks, these items can restore your health or provide other benefits whenever you need them. You can only carry six at one time, so it's not like the sky's the limit, but it should provide plenty of back-up for anyone who gets stuck on a particular level. These consumables also guarantee the shop never becomes useless, as it inevitably did in previous games.

The levels pack in a lot more secrets than the previous games, too. Of course, there are treasure chests hidden in out of the way places that will help boost your finances, but there are also three different types of collectibles to track down. It's impossible to find all of them on your first run through each stage, so you'll need to come back to previous stages with new weapons and abilities. The quick warp system from the last game is back here, so it's never a hassle to backtrack, as long as you remember the vicinity of where you've found each unexplorable path. Some of the collectibles are even hidden in stages you would have no reason to visit on your march to the boss of each world. The branching paths found in many stages really show off the improved level-design chops of this team. As in the greats like the Super Mario games, some of the side paths are glaringly obvious, while others require you to demonstrate a little curiosity and go against your established rhythms.

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I know I keep banging this whole "improved design" drum, but I have one more thing I want to highlight. The bosses in Cally's Caves 3 are a serious improvement over the previous games. The problem in the other games is that the bosses are sometimes so hard to defeat, that you find yourself looking for, and usually finding, a way to cheese them to death. This isn't because of their patterns or anything like that, but rather that they are serious bullet-sponges. Cally herself doesn't have much of an invincibility window after getting hit, so it was all too easy for a big boss to crowd you and drain your whole life bar from one little mistake, forcing you to start the long process all over again. Cally's reaction to collisions hasn't changed that much in the third game, but the bosses are all considerably more manageable thanks to having somewhat smaller life bars. They're still long battles, mind you, but they're short enough that they greatly reduce the anxiety involved in making mistakes. Since the game takes greater steps to prevent you from cheesing bosses, I'm glad they improved that end of things.

When I heard that they were adding a roll move to Cally's arsenal, I was a little bit worried about how it would affect the controls. One of the strong points of Cally's Caves is how enjoyable the character controls are, and a lot of that is down to simplicity. I needn't have worried much. The roll is mapped to a simple vertical swipe on the directional arrows. It comes out naturally and effortlessly enough to use in combat situations, if you're so bold. Another addition is the ability to easily bring up a weapon select screen by touching and holding on the weapon change button. This allows you to quickly switch to the weapon you want rather than cycling through all of them trying to find it.

Otherwise, the controls are the same as they were in the last game, which is a good thing for the most part. The main thing I didn't like about the gameplay in the last one unfortunately carries over here, as well. Cally's minimal invincibility window after getting hit, combined with the way she gets knocked back, means it's very easy for enemies to take you from full life to zero if you get boxed in. The developers have addressed this, in a way. There's a new power-up you'll find that activates when Cally falls to one heart, delivering a screen-clearing blast. As band-aids go, it's not bad. At least this time around, you restart with a full life meter after dying.

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I haven't even talked yet about the new playable character, or the destructible stage objects that hide goodies Castlevania-style, or the cool yet pricey mods for each weapon. Suffice it to say, everything works the way you would hope, and none of it feeling vestigial or half-cooked. Cally's Caves 3 shows a developer who has gained all the confidence they need to push out a high-quality, well-rounded game. That extends to the presentation as well. Although it's not quite the jump that we saw from the first game to the second, Cally's Caves 3 has a lot of little details and animations that make everything look slightly better. The bosses in particular seem to have gotten a lot of attention this time around. As you would expect, Cally and the new playable character are expressive and smooth in how they move, but the enemies also have a lot of fun touches to them. The music end of things has never let these games down, and the soundtrack in this game meets the same standard as those of the previous games.

Cally's Caves 3 is jam-packed with content, of which a significant and satisfying portion is totally free to play with only infrequent ads as strings. Virtually every aspect of the game shows significant improvement over its already-excellent predecessor, and its new elements are clearly carefully designed, properly-realized, and contribute greatly to the overall experience. This third game feels like it completely delivers on all of the promise of the original that the TouchArcade forums fell in love with only a couple of short years ago. Take a bow, Cally. No one can say you haven't earned it.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Marvin

    I want to play this game but the App Store doesn't seem to be working correctly at the moment, along with Game Center not logging in.

    • Themostunclean

      I had some problems at first then I just did a search for "Cally's" instead of using the TA link and it worked fine. Game Center is still buggy though. I had to try a few times to get logged in.

      • Marvin

        Finally got it downloading. I had started the process a few times but it wouldn't actually do anything after my password

      • Callys Caves 3

        same problem here. what wonderful timing! After 3 tries we were able to download it

  • Anotherkellydown

    Love the second playable character =)

    • Callys Caves 3

      thank you!!

  • Callys Caves 3

    Thank you so much for the review! Yeah it does look like the appstore is being a bit wonky today

  • NOEN

    Great review Shaun and congrats to the dev team. This is truly a great game.

    • Callys Caves 3

      Thank you NOEN!

  • MLM043

    I got this last night as soon as it came out. I've been waiting since I beat 2.

    • Callys Caves 3

      thank you for the support! it means a lot, the TA community has been so awesome

      • MLM043

        No problem . Thank you for making one of my favorite franchises!

      • Alec Fry

        Hey is it possible to get the sniper rifle without buying it ?

      • Callys Caves 3

        nope, it comes as part of survival mode :/

      • Alec Fry

        Ugh and I've already beaten the game and got new game plus so I'm basically screwed

      • Callys Caves 3

        well if you get survival mode you will get it... sorry about that. we do have a big update coming with 3 new weapons and they are definitely totally free 😀 the sniper is the only one related to a purchase

      • Alec Fry

        Oh I think I had survival mode at the start. But I've gotten to the second round . its fun and a little hard at the same time. Well I'll be waiting for the update. Keep up the awesome work 😀

      • Alec Fry

        I found most of the final forms. Just need boomarang, assault rifle, laser, and bladegun

      • Alec Fry

        Hey are there any final forms of weapons in the bonuses ? Cause if there are then I missed them

      • Callys Caves 3

        Yep there are 3 related to the bonus levels. Here is a list of all the weapon/final form locations!

        Pistol - have it by default

        Pistol Final Form - Level 38+

        Shotgun - level 3

        Shotgun Final Form - Level 48+

        Assault Rifle - level 14

        Assault Rifle Final Form - Bonus 1

        RPG - level 23

        RPG Final Form - Bonus 3

        Bomb - level 28

        Bomb Final Form - level 67+

        Mine - level 69

        Mine Final Form - level 93+

        Laser - level 87

        Laser Final Form - level 101+

        Bladegun - level 77

        Bladegun Final Form - Reward for Beating Survival Mode

        Flamethrower - Level 63

        Flamethrower Final Form - Level 85+

        Sniper - Purchased with Survival Mode

        Sniper Final Form - Level 105+

        Boomerang - Level 48

        Boomerang Final Form - Level 78+

      • Tórur Sowden

        Where is this 38+ levels and so on?

      • Callys Caves 3

        in the New Game + area

  • Dailon Huskey

    Very good platformer!!

  • unclet6615

    This game is nothing short of awesome. $4.99 iap bought!

    • Callys Caves 3

      Thank you so much for the support! We are a couple people making games for free. hopefully with support like yours we can keep it going 😀

  • HippoHumper

    I am so glad this game got such a good score from you guys and thus the attention it deserves. Been playing this since the first installment and agree with everything in the review. Everything is done so well: the gameplay, weapons, enemies, levels it urges you to keep playing till the end which I have for both previous games simply because it's so damn fun. Haven't been able to say that for most games I've played in recent memory including triple A titles on my console.

    • Callys Caves 3

      Your support means everything to us! Thanks so much for sticking with us from when we started!

  • Durduhdur

    This game is aaaamaaaazing such great polish, characters, music everything. I was surprised when I checked TA before bed and saw this. Stayed up two extra hours playing.

    • Callys Caves 3

      thank you so much for playing it!

  • Quazonk

    Awesome game. A great evolution of an already great series that I've been playing since day one. Congrats to the dev, and a strongly recommended game to anyone who's even sort of a fan of action/shooter/platformers. Great work!

    • Callys Caves 3

      thank you sir 😀 we appeciate your recommendation!

  • https://www.facebook.com/rossmanbrothersgames RossmanBrosGames

    Wow! So pumped for you guys. Seems like not to long ago I was reading the thread on the forums for the first game!

    • Callys Caves 3

      thank you so much for supporting us all the way!

  • orangecan

    Absolutely loved the first two and this was a pleasant surprise but can anyone tell me how the checkpoints work please? I quit out when I'd gone past the third checkpoint (the computer I assume) but when I restarted I was back at the beginning but with all my guns, upgrades coins etc.....
    Does it only checkpoint save at the boss?

    • Callys Caves 3

      Hey orangecan! It saves after each checkpoint, so you can warp there any time from the "map" button in the pause menu! 🙂

      • orangecan

        Brilliant thanks very much I missed the map somehow!

  • retrogiant

    After only had played the second one, I'm really excited about this! LOVED the second one and played it nearly non-stop until I beat it.

    • retrogiant

      I usually avoid games like this cause the controls are poorly done but these games have nailed it perfectly.

      • Callys Caves 3

        that is great to hear!

  • 7lilwhitewolf7

    I love coming to TA to read. Thanks Shaun Musgrave.

    • Callys Caves 3

      agreed, thanks Shaun!

  • bluspacecow

    I have a 5th gen iPod and an iPad Air. Of my two devices which is this best played on ?

    • Callys Caves 3

      ipad Air!

  • Dang Dang

    I was at the Herbert' s Lab last round and when I talk to the guy it show an error and kick me out of the game. I tried many times but it still repeat

    • Callys Caves 3

      this bug is fixed now 😀

  • piwakawaka

    Great game, lots of fun. I seem to be stuck in a web though, permanently so far - is this a bug or is there a way to extricate myself?

    • Callys Caves 3

      sword will break the web!

  • Amanda Gonzalez

    I love this game so much! I spent all week playing and never once regretted downloading it. I beat the game and can honestly say it's odd how attached you get to the characters as the game progresses, I felt like I wanted the game to continue just to find Herbert again.(beating him up never gets old!)

    The music was great, especially how it mixes randomly throughout the game. You really don't feel like it gets repetitive as the game play draws you along the with the beats. My sister is picky about music and she liked it too!

    Everyone should try this game 5/5 for me!

    • Callys Caves 3

      thank you so much for playing our game! we are so glad you enjoyed it 😀

  • Jason

    Fun game, but too much insta-kill water/lava. They should make it that if you die by an enemy, you go back to a checkpoint, but if you die from an environmental hazard, you go back to the beginning of a level.

  • Alec Fry

    Can you find the sniper rifle in regular game ?

  • Alec Fry

    Cause that's the only weapon I need to find

    • Callys Caves 3

      nope its a in app purchase, sorry about that

  • DustDaRapper

    How do I get my weapons to level 20? While slaughtering survival mode my blade gun randomly maxed out as I which to switch guns with the drop-down menu. Maybe it was a bug or glitch because the screen went black n I didn't see the gun pop up nor the breakdown of the gun's improvements like usual. Please help!? I need to push my guns to the max!!! P.S. FREAKING LOVING THIS GAME. The balance of difficulty with express map warping gets my rocks off I swear. Plus Cally is soo adorable 😀

  • Alec Fry

    I beat survival mode but like 100 grand was taken away from me for some reason

  • BH34

    How do you get the bonus levels?

  • Nour Eddien Aboullaban

    hello, sorry for being late, thank you for the great game, i started playing it few days ago,but please i need help with something, is there anyway to sync games between 2 IOS devices ? like my ipad and iphone, or my iphone 4s and my iphone 6s+
    great game, i loved everything about it

  • Tórur Sowden

    What is "you have found strenght upgrades"?

Cally's Caves 3 Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 5