Gnomes and Gems reminded me of another 'digger' title called Deep Down
Racing. But aside from digging below terra firma, there's little
similarity in terms of gameplay. The latter, as the title denotes, was
a race against time, against potential death from the instability you
create drilling downwards. If Deep Down Racing was a fast, lock and
stock Hollywood heist flick, Gems would be its alter ego. Slow and
methodical, Gems challenges the player to make thoughtful decisions,
steps ahead of what they're about to do.
That's because like any other excavation, there's always the potential
of setting off a chain reaction, whereby boulders come hurtling down.
Why does your protagonist venture deep into underground rivers and
lava-encased structures? Gems has you assume the role of a gnome, a
greedy one who desires riches sectioned off into Lead, Tin, Copper,
Iron, Silver and Gold. The game starts with you above ground. You
basically take a pickaxe, choose a route and move towards the
aforementioned riches. Along the way, you'll encounter things beyond
natural obstacles. Volcanic imps, monster centipedes, burrowing beetles
and arachnids will try to remove you from their subterranean habitats.
In Gems, there are no set stages or puzzles but the level design
sometimes lends itself to that. Riches are often cordoned off in places
where you have to think a few steps ahead to successfully extract it.
This is the heist motif: how do you get in, get the goods and get out
safely? Sometimes, the developers even throw in a chance earthquake to
keep you on your toes. Those are perhaps the best elements of the game
but it's mired by the fact that to get from point A to point B, Gems
plays out in a lethargic manner, whether it's climbing down with a pickaxe (could he not just slide down?) or walking (too slow).
The animation for Gems is fairly good. Your gnome protagonist will
exhibit a multitude of actions. He can grab on to things and interact with
the environment, all executed smoothly on the Pocket PC. While we might
imagine the world beneath us to be dank and dark, Gems includes a good
deal of color, in depicting the jewels as well as unique sub-worlds you
come across, like the lava stages. Aurally, the game is not bad. You
have the usual assortment of effects but none of them, like the visuals,
With over one hundred levels, Gems offers a meaty experience for people
who will be patient enough to run with the idea. The main fault of Gems
lies in its storyline: evil characters revolving around greed and games
that persist to hobble along fuelling such vices are not inherently
attractive to everyone. At times, without clear indicators when roaming
around beneath the Earth, you could be lost and the game offers no
instructions or audio cues as to where you should be going. The premise
is, hack everything to pieces and get all the riches but it just doesn't
seem to be a compelling enough reason. While Gems attempts to
incorporate a plot of sorts, one hundred levels is hard to keep any
coherent storyline going; think of how lost you would be in a long
running soap opera like Days of Our Lives or General Hospital.
This is just the inaugural title for Wasp Games though and it shows they
have the technical elements down. But it remains to be seen whether
they can make a compelling game around that talent. In the final
analysis, Gems is like Beethoven's Triple Concerto to Symphony No. 9: a
piece to play around with some ideas, experiment and demonstrate you
still have "it" before creating any serious pieces of work.
[09/10] Program Size
[13/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer