Solomon’s Keep epitomizes the adage “less is more.” Some iPhone games try very hard to emulate their big brothers on the PC or videogame consoles. While the iPhone is certainly capable of supporting very complex games, sometimes it’s the more streamlined “pick up and play” games that end up wasting most of our time. Solomon’s Keep unashamedly strips away the complexity of a dungeon crawler until it almost feels like an arcade game, but still maintains enough RPG credibility to justify replaying it over and over.
First off, this is not a remake of the old-school classic “Solomon’s Key,” which was a side-scrolling puzzle-based platformer. Solomon’s Keep is a top-down, twin-stick dungeon crawler. This means you can expect to press through floor after floor of enemy-filled dungeons, leveling up, and finding gold and magical items.
While it is structurally very similar to games like Diablo 1, its simplified leveling system and action-focused controls make it feel more like something you’d find in an arcade cabinet than on a home PC.
Roll out the welcome mat.
The game itself is not very long and can probably be beaten in around an hour. In this case, that is not necessarily a bad thing. There are multiple distinct upgrade paths that you can follow, and each one feels different and has varying strengths and weaknesses. This variation justifies playing through a few times to see how the different skills and spells can be used.
In addition, the game awards you a rating and detailed stats about how you performed after completing the game. These features, combined with the shorter run time, let you test different strategies until you find a winning combination.
If you have been intimidated in the past by games like Dungeon Hunter you should have no fear giving Solomon’s Keep a try. There are no different classes, no skill trees, and no attributes to add points to. You have three slots to equip your wizard, and when you level up you just need to select one of three random skills to learn or upgrade.
Both the layout of the dungeon and the purchases available in town are random, so each playthrough will be somewhat different than the ones before. The shorter nature of the game is also such that you won’t necessarily feel bad tossing a character and starting over if things are not going your way.
This meeting of alarmed wizards is now in session.
Solomon’s Keep doesn’t drop the ball when it comes to the presentation, either. The graphics and audio are engaging, and the interface is intuitive enough to learn quickly. The game is also very good about saving your progress, so if you die or have to turn off the game quickly, you won’t lose more than a few minutes of progress.
The story is sparse, and the dungeon can get a bit repetitive. If you are counting on a strong narrative or constant changes of pace, you might want to look elsewhere.
We think this game will resonate with a lot of people. Those who are overwhelmed by more fiddly RPG systems will welcome the relative simplicity of Solomon’s Keep. Gamers who enjoy longer and more detailed games will probably find the shorter and more sandbox-like nature a welcome change from their usual fare. Solomon’s Keep does a great job of balancing the addictive loot-hunting and upgrading of an RPG, along with the quick-hitting challenge of an arcade game, making it an easy game to recommend.