The iOS app, called MapleStory: Cave Crawlers, is the latest entry in the long-running franchise, which has been a staple of the free-to-play market since 2003. Unlike its computer-based cousin, however, Cave Crawlers is a single player paid app. Social functionality is limited to Game Center achievements — there is no in-game interaction with other players.
The player is tasked with sending an individual fighter or thief character into the dungeons of the MapleStory world. Once in a dungeon, the player navigates around an abstract isometric map screen using simple touch controls, gathering items with which to strengthen their character and battling monsters.
Unlike many more traditional RPGs, Cave Crawlers’ combat system is based around timing and reflexes. Each monster has a “time bar.” A cursor moves on top of it. It’s faster or slower depending on the monster’s agility. For example, when you’re battling a giant snail, it moves more slowly than when you’re fighting a plant monster.
Colored marks along the time bar indicate what will happen if the player taps the screen when the cursor is over it — orange marks indicate a normal hit; red marks indicate a critical hit which causes more damage; white marks indicate the monster will deflect the player’s blow and counterattack; black marks indicate the player will miss entirely; and the rare red marks with exclamation points indicate the opportunity for a Deadly Blow which will kill the monster instantly.
The simplified RPG gameplay is a good fit for the mobile platform, enabling the player to explore dungeons and battle monsters with ease without getting bogged down in complicated interfaces. A degree of depth is provided by the variety of equipment and items available for players to find in the dungeons, but the game is primarily intended to be a fast-paced arcade-like experience with simple one-touch controls.
Cave Crawlers, despite being a paid app, also features a Cash Shop for additional in-app purchases. These are mostly extra currency packs but there are also helpful consumable items such as health potions, scrolls which reveal the whole map and weapon enhancers. The vast majority of Cash Shop consumables are also available as in-game pickups for those with the patience to look for them. But because item drops happen randomly, purchasing them in the Cash Shop is often a quicker — if more expensive — way to build up a stockpile.
While it may seem counter productive to include in-app purchases in a paid app, Roman Bui of App Zap recently told us that there is strong evidence suggesting paid app customers often monetize at a much higher rate than free ones. Another South Korean developer, Gamevil, has done this frequently with hits like Air Penguin.
Cave Crawlers currently features five dungeons for players to explore, with more to be added in future, regular updates. Nexon hasn’t yet said if these new areas will be available as free updates to the base game or will require in-app purchases to access. The game has so far received one update, but this was simply to fix bugs.
The company’s shares are still trading below their initial price following December’s IPO at 1,153 yen, giving the company a market capitalization of 490.5 billion yen ($6.39 billion).