Sunday, April 22, 2007


Title: Gems
Author: GameCave
License: Freeware

Ultimately, the finally evaluation of any puzzle/logic game rests on the quality of its puzzles and level design. This, ultimately, is why Gems falls flat. It has high production values in terms of graphics and audio. It contains some unique twists on old ideas. But sadly, the level design is awful. Juvenile is a better description. This could have been a great game. I still want to review Gems because it comes with a level editor, and I hope that the user designed levels will be better.

Gems is at its heart a simple game. The objective is to get each of the goal gems (the red ones for example) to a disposal gem (light blue). The game is played top down. The moveable gems such as the red one are selected with a mouse click. The selected gem is then moved by hitting an arrow key. Once a gem starts moving, it keeps moving until it hits a wall or another gem.

There are many similar games out there, but Gems adds some interesting twists. There are pink gems which blow up and force a restart if touched by one of the other gems. The yellow defuser gems can be used to remove pink bomb gems. One nice twist is that several pink gems arranged in a line can be eliminated at once with a pass of a yellow gem. The next twist is the line gems which are goal gems but cannot be allowed to leave the rails. You must use the red gems to block and keep the line gems on the rails while transiting to the light blue disposal gem. Another nice twist is the light green gems with a number on it. These are also goal gems which must get to the disposal gem. However, they must do this in that number of moves. This makes for a tricky puzzles. A standard but nice addition is the deflector gem. Any moveable gem hitting one bounces back. Then there is once-through (dotted circular tile) which transforms into a solid wall after any gem passes through it.

Now, I need to start on the bad innovations in Gems. The first is the blue moving bombs. These just bounce back and forth. You have to time the moves to avoid them. The level designers relied on these moving bombs way too much. The resulting levels can be really annoying. In the level below, the upper blue gem has a range of only three spots. Timing this one is a pain, and it has to be done twice to complete the level. Sorry no saves.

The next problem is teleporters. Enter a blue X and come out a red X. These are ubiquitous in puzzle games. How can they be so bad? In Gems, there is no indication which blue X goes to which red X. Take a look at the level below. For each red gem, you have to guess which blue X leads to the red X next to the light blue disposal gems for each red gem. The other one leads to the pink gems.

Finally, there are these annoying timer gems which have to get to a disposal gem within a certain number of seconds. Ugh. After all this, the levels do not involve one of these annoying gems are usually fairly easy. There were only four or five that really took any thinking.

Gems comes with 62 levels broken into one introductory level, 6 sets of 10 levels each, and a final elite level. Each set introduces another item with a demo level. Once 8 out of 10 levels are completed in any set, the next set of 10 becomes available. This level structure is very good if only the levels were better designed.

Luckily, Gems comes a level editor. Maybe some user made levels will be good. We'll have to check back.


At 1:49 AM, Blogger Jimmy said...

I thought I would take a stab at making a set of levels for Gems. My plan was to generate a set of 50 or so tough, thinking only levels. But it turns out that one of the more interesting gems (the countdown gem with a limited number of moves) is not available in the level editor. Very poor QA. I emailed them but have not gotten a response. I am giving up on this one. There are other better games out there.



Post a Comment

<< Home