Sunday, February 12, 2006

Gems Cubed Review

Gems Cubed, developed and published by Walter O. Krawec Games.
The Good: Extremely easy to learn, interesting use of 3-D, multiple game modes, online high scores list
The Not So Good: Aiming on Ship Gems is weird, old-fashioned graphics
What say you? There’s enough originality for a fascinating puzzle game, especially for only $5: 6/8

It used to be that all you needed for a great game was simple mechanics and a hook to keep people interested; this explains how the now boring Atari games dominated the video gaming scene in the early 1980s. People seem to want more sophistication nowadays, with complex controls and more bells and whistles. However, there will always be an audience for simpler games that are good for filling five or ten minutes of your time. Gems Cubed is one of those games, a puzzle game that features cubed gems.

Gems Cubed looks like one of those early 3-D games, when people were starting to learn about programming in all 29 dimensions of compatibility. This is due to the game being developed by a small (meaning one person) company, and that’s fine with me. Gems Cubed isn’t the greatest looking game in the world, but the graphics don’t hinder the gameplay all too much. As long as you’re not going in expecting earth shattering special effects, then Gems Cubed looks fine. The sound is along the same lines: a few (four) sound effects to just move the action along. I’m not too terribly concerned about graphics and sound in puzzle games, so I’m willing to give a pass if the rest of the game is good.

In Gems Cubed, you are given a 3-D box of gems and must click on gems to destroy them and all their same colored neighbors. We’ve seen this gameplay mechanic before, but what sets Gems Cubed apart is the fully 3-D grid. As you destroy the jems, they collapse inward in an implosion of fury. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before as usually they go down towards the bottom of the screen. The use of 3-D elements in the game is enough innovation to make Gems Cubed a memorable title. You can rotate the gems around to gain a better perspective and the game indicates which gems will be eliminated if you select a single gem. There are several modes of play that all revolve around the same idea (except for one). Classic Gems feature the gameplay I mentioned above, where higher scores are earned by eliminating larger numbers of gems at once. Free Gems has an unlimited amount of gems but a limited amount of turns. New gems come flying in from the side and usually result in large sections of same colored gems for your eliminating pleasure. You can earn extra turns by earning 500 points. Timed Gems includes bombs that destroy gems, so you must play a bit faster. In Puzzle Gems, you must leave four gems of a given color at the end (which is really hard to do) in order to get a score bonus. And then there’s Ship Gems. Ship Gems almost feels out of place because it’s so dissimilar to all the other modes: it plays like a duck hunt game. You shoot a cannon at horizontally scrolling gems by clicking on the screen. The aiming is kind of odd, as the cannonballs don’t go exactly where you click, and takes some getting used to. You can also activate some power-ups that destroy a bunch of gems at once. You can upload your high scores from any of the modes to a central server to see how well you’re doing against other competitors.

Gems Cubed takes a classic puzzle mechanic and makes its unique addition: central gravity 3-D levels. This is enough of a new addition to make Gems Cubed a remarkable title against the backdrop of all those puzzle games. There are multiple modes of play and a central high score list to gauge your progress with. Gems Cubed does what every good puzzle game should: it offers quick, fun, and easy to learn gameplay. In addition, the game is only $5, so there’s really no reason not to get Gems Cubed, especially if you’re interested in puzzle games.