Game Over Online ~ Gnomes and Gems

GameOver Game Reviews - Gnomes and Gems (c) Wasp Games, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Gnomes and Gems (c) Wasp Games
System Requirements Pocket PC 2002 or Pocket PC w/ an ARM Processor, 16-bit Video Memory & 10MB available RAM
Overall Rating 78%
Date Published Monday, July 22nd, 2002 at 08:23 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

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, are standouts.

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.

[07/10] Addictiveness
[13/20] Gameplay
[12/15] Graphics
[08/10] Interface/controls
[09/10] Program Size
[03/05] Sound
[05/05] Discreetness
[13/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer


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