Review: Excave (3DS)

The Littlest Dungeon Crawler.

By Anthony Pershkin. Posted 05/12/2015 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Budget price; looks and sounds nice; actually fun fighting monsters
Poison Mushroom for...
Rough item management; no pause function; boring enemies and environments; lack of map results in unnecessary backtracking

The dungeon crawler is one of those genres that just hasn’t evolve as drastically as other ones throughout the years. The core idea behind it is to be an addictive piece of entertainment, one which players would want to re-visit again and again. A good dungeon crawler revolves around repetition, like any other game of this kind, but also feels satisfying. A good dungeon crawler has a very simple foundation in terms of game design, but it covers it up with an exciting feel of progression and sheer enjoyment coming from the game’s mechanics. With that in mind, smaller examples of the genre like Excave technically should have no problems competing even with the best of the best. After all, people don’t play dungeon crawlers for stunning visuals or deep narrative, they play them for addictive gameplay. Let’s see if this eShop exclusive succeeds in that regard.

It should be mentioned that Excave is a budget title, but as I already explained above, it shouldn’t be a problem for a dungeon crawler. Surprisingly, despite its budget origins, Excave looks rather nice, with colorful visuals and good character models. The environment could look a bit more interesting, perhaps, but at least the game doesn’t take place in complete darkness, with you stumbling around searching for more sources of light. As you make your way through the dungeon, the game also keeps up a really upbeat musical score, which should make even the most mundane things feel a little bit more exciting.

Excave has a pretty simple structure, with one hub-world zone connecting all the separate little dungeons with different colored doors. The point of the game is to eventually open every door in the hub-world and make it to the end of your journey. While I said that the structure itself is simple, you will get lost eventually, as the game lacks any kind of map. And thanks to the very bare bones environments, it becomes rather difficult remembering which location you didn’t explore yet. In the worst case scenario, you will be pointlessly going through previously visited areas and teleporting back to the hub-world.

Every time you teleport out of the dungeon, you go back to the store where you manage your equipment, which becomes a necessity due to the game’s rather poor item management system. You only have about 16 slots for normal items, three slots for upgrades, and two slots for usable items, which include both keys and weapons. To use a key you’re supposed to drag it into the usable slot from your equipment using the stylus. Doing such a thing is not very comfortable in the middle of battle in the game, as it lacks a pause function. Also, due to equipment limitation you can’t store all the needed keys, items, and weapons at the same time, so you pretty much have to teleport back to the store every so often. The weapons do have set durability, so that’s another reason why you’re going to be backtracking.

Thankfully, the core gameplay feels great. Slashing and shooting enemies feels satisfying, and the game provides enough variety with the weapon choices for its two main characters. Unfortunately, said variety doesn’t apply to the enemy department, as you’re going to be fighting mostly the same types of enemies through the whole game. Boss battles are a bit more creative, with certain item and weapon requirements. They’re nothing spectacular, but certainly enough to feel different from fighting your usual enemies. Excave also lacks certain natural elements for its genre, like having an experience gauge. You never know when you’re going to level up or how exactly it will change your statistics. The other thing lacking is the narrative, which is pretty much non-existent, but it’s not like you’d expect a deep narrative from a game like this.

Excave is a functional dungeon crawler, which should be fun, if you’re willing to work your way around weak item management, the lack of a map, constant backtracking, and its overall short length. If you can’t deal with these problems, then even the alluring $5 price tag won’t help you forget them.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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