If you played Solomon’s Keep and enjoyed it, then you’re in for a bit of a treat. Solomon’s Boneyard is a follow up, featuring the same gameplay mechanics, but a slightly different approach. It is essentially a survival version of the former game. The survival aspect is not a bad thing, because the gameplay hasn’t changed much, nor have the powers. If you were being sent on a journey like the first game, different environment or not, it would probably get old fast due to the lack of innovation. Solomon’s Boneyard pleases, though, especially when you just want a good ten to twenty minute distraction.
You start in a lobby with four wizards, each of which have different combat and secondary spells. As you collect gold over time, you will be able to unlock new characters, as well as perks, that allow for enhanced abilities. You can have perks that allow you to start the game with two random magic rings, make monsters drop more loot, or upgrade your spells to a higher level before you begin. Some of the perks are rather useless though, so be careful as to which ones you buy. If you want to get all of them as fast as possible, I suggest getting the one that makes monsters drop more gold as soon as you can.
After speaking with an inexpicably sexist head wizard, you choose your mage, choose one of four levels (you have to unlock three of them) and prepare to start blasting/zapping/burning/freezing everything that moves. You have a single area you’ll be playing in, but there are plenty of obstacles you get in your way, such as open graves and trees. The light emanating from your wizard creates a cool real time shadow effect with all of the objects around you, which is a nice improvement over the last game. Overall, the graphics look just as sharp and nice as before, and not being stuck in a giant keep means that extra details like grass and snow are possible, and the change of environment is good.
The first few waves of enemies will be easy, with each wave increasing in difficulty. Soon you will be facing armored skeletons backed up by archers, mages, zombies and other dead things that want you to join their ranks. Occasionally you’ll come across Solomon with a shovel digging in one of the graves, but if you approach him he runs away, presumably to prevent you from discovering his newfound fetish (can you guess what it is?).
Like Solomon’s Keep, you use the left virtual joystick to move, and the right to aim and shoot your equipped combat spell. Also like the last game, secondary spells are cast by touching the respective icon on the right side of the screen, which is convenient for instantly casting things like teleport, to help you get away.
When you level up, you will be given a choice of three random spells or attributes to increase. It could be the damage of your combat skill, the damage of your spell’s secondary effect, such as explode or chain, your actual secondary spell, total health or mana, or mana regeneration. If you don’t like all this randomness, you can pay $1.99 to get your skills from a skill tree, which, of course, any RPG player knows is the better option.
Each combat spell has it’s own set of advantages, and I found myself using different strategies entirely with each of them. All of the unlockable characters start with two combat spells, which is convenient if you like to weld spells together. As long as you have two combat spells, you can weld two spells together on level up, if you are given the option. This will combine the effects of both and create a super charged spell that does tons of damage, but drains your mana like crazy.
Don’t forget that if you do combine spells, you won’t be able to upgrade the welded spell. You will have to upgrade the base spells and weld them again at a later time. Your best bet is to make sure the base spells are fairly powerful before you combine them. If you wait too long though, you’ll die before you have a chance to do it.
And you will eventually die. It is a survival game after all. But once you’ve collected enough gold you’ll be able to unlock some more perks, which help you survive longer. There’s one perk that allows Solomon summon boss monsters occasionally, which will drop a significant amount of gold and a powerful item for you to use. The only thing I don’t like about the boss monsters is that it’s always the same one. Each time that he summons a boss in a single playthrough, it’s simply a more powerful version until you die. When you do die, you will keep whatever gold you earned, your score will be recorded on your personal high score board, and you get to start over again.
All in all, Solomon’s Boneyard is very fun and addictive. It’s great in short bursts, which make it a perfect travel game. If you have to stop somewhere for a bit, you can take it out and try to beat your last high score. I often take my iPod with me when going somewhere in case I have to wait in a lobby, go to the bathroom, or let the wife do her shopping (in the latter scenario, I also bring a charger).
RPG fans, this isn’t a super deep experience. It’s a burst-play RPG for casual players who need to pass some time while grandpa talks about his eye surgery at your awkward family gatherings. That being said, it’s excellent at what it does.
Have you gotten addicted to this little gem yet? What’s your high score? Sound off in the comments.