Means Well But Falls Short –
With no options, story or level progression, Excave is weak Roguelike that is repetitive and fulfills the definition of barebones gameplay.
Not a true Roguelike but not a true action RPG, Excave is somewhere in the middle with gameplay focusing on venturing deeper to a labyrinth through real time combat. The problem is the lack of reason to do anything. There is no story to speak of outside of a few poorly translated and misspelled sentences when first booting up. Even the two playable characters are simply named with the male and female symbol and do not have any differences other than the weapons they can use. Character strength and defense are solely determined by wearing a few accessories that really do not seem to make a difference while combat is nothing more than mashing the attack button. Fighting is ultimately pointless as it is easier and more efficient to just run pass enemies. There is no incentive to fight since there is no leveling up feature too. Occasionally a boss battle will pop up but these are marred with cheap hits, like causing an unstoppable poison, and off screen attacks. Enemy AI is also predictable as baddies just mindless charge at the player like a magnet.
Each corridor looks and feels just like the last, composed of repeating tile sets and 90 degree angles. With no map feature, it is easy to get lost since each section looks exactly the same. Enemies even repeat and are blandly designed; the blob enemies of the opening stages are just poorly animated circles. Eventually the player will run into actual creatures like bats and bees but getting swarmed by the same enemies in the same environments, without incentive to level up, gets old really quick. Weapons also break randomly without any indication so stock piling inventoried weapons is a must especially since magic is unreliable, rare, and one-time-use only. If the player gets stuck or needs to make an inventory drop, the teleport feature can instantly revert back to the main menu which is handy but also barebones since the player just clicks on things via a main menu instead of just traveling back to a town or hub area. Hording keys and potions is also a tedious chore, using a shield does nothing and basically just takes up an inventory slot, and the overall inventory interface is clumsy and difficult to navigate when Zerged with enemies or during a boss fight.
As it stands, Excave is an uninspired and boring dungeon crawler that has the beginnings of something solid but falls way short of the mark in every department even with the low $5 price tag. The soundtrack, although it repeats just as much as the enemies and environmental textures, is actually the unexpected highlighting feature. With useless and broken combat, repeating enemies and level design, empty character development and plot and overall clunky interface (no map with repeating environments is just awful), this downloadable eShop title is difficult to enjoy when you experience everything that is offered within the first minutes of gameplay.
Not As Good As: Etrian Odyssey
Wish For It: a translated Seiken Densetsu 3 Virtual Console release with online co-op
Also Try: Shining Soul 1 and Shining Soul II (GBA)
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com