iPhone Life magazine

Review: Cryptic Keep by 3D Methods

In my humble opinion the term “adventure game” has become too broad these days.  I see some sites even try to classify an FPS as an adventure game.  To me it is games like the King’s Quest series from Sierra or Zork from Infocom that defines the adventure game genre.  Games that require you to really explore your surroundings, solve many puzzles, and quite often interact with dozens of non-player characters in more than just a “pardon me while I shoot you” capacity.  Cryptic Keep certainly strives for the feel of the classics, though the distinct lack of NPCs and very little story save snippets at the beginning and the end make it feel more like Myst than a true adventure game.  Still, I appreciate that developers are trying to reinvigorate the genre, and it was fun while it lasted.

A Skeleton Archer
 

You play a no name adventurer that must explore the long abandoned keep of King Telvonus to try and recover the Sword Of Ire and solve the mystery of the inner keep.  You’ll explore several locations within the outer keep, including the blacksmith, the stables and a house.  Along the way you must unravel the secrets of several statues, as well as the pile of stones in the central courtyard that has a couple of runes carved in it.  To do all this you’ll collect items, solve puzzles and play a couple of mini-games.

Everything is basically “tap to control”.  There are no extended press, swipe or accelerometer movements required.  As such the controls are pretty spot on in regards to responsiveness.  The main thing is figuring out what you’re supposed to do sometimes, as this game does the opposite of hand holding.  There are no “glowing auras” to tell you where to click, and often I found myself basically tapping the entire screen until I found something.  It was actually kind of refreshing to have to work for my reward, though the downside to the constant tapping meant that sometimes I’d accidentally get overzealous and tap the back button or a hotspot like a door that would take me to another location.  Not a real big deal except for the slight loading waits.

What Light Thru Yonder Window...
 

For the most part everything in the game is pretty straightforward.  There was one puzzle that threw me because I was connecting the wrong dots (figuratively speaking), so I did have to ask the developer for a hint.  However, I had little problems conquering most of the mysteries on my own, and the one or two areas that might be considered mini-games were quite simple.  The net result is the main down side to Cryptic Keep, which is the fact that it is very short.  I know the developer has promised new puzzles in an update, but the truth is that even if the game were twice the current size it will only take you a little over an hour to play.

Maybe I’m reading too much into the fact that the company name is 3D Methods, but while the graphics were decent, they weren’t great.  Don’t get me wrong – some things like the gryphon and skeleton statues did stick out as being pretty cool.  However, most of the stuff felt like art designed for a template pack that you might get with low end modeling software.  There really wasn’t any animation to speak of, even where it might have made sense like crackling flames on a torch or flickering light beaming through a window.  Overall the world established in Cryptic Keep felt pretty lifeless.

The Majestic Gryphon
 

The sound effects didn’t help any.  There are noises where appropriate, like doors creaking open or vines rustling when you climb them.  However, there really weren’t any background noises.  I realize the constrained area doesn’t lend itself to much, but maybe a bird chirping or at the very least some footsteps as you’re walking around.  At least the music is enjoyable and suits the mysterious surroundings.

I enjoyed Cryptic Keep.  I just felt it was too short and a bit too simple.  I also think the visuals could use a bit of a facelift, though that did not in any way deter me from playing it.  If you like adventure games that lean more heavily on the puzzle side than a deep story, Cryptic Keep is a good choice for you.  Hopefully the next update will bring some much needed challenge and length to the game.

Overall Score: 7/10
App Store Link

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.