Gemology

6.5 Overall Score
Gameplay: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 7/10

Solid bunch of puzzles to play | Music is great

Tutorials don't help much | Some levels are duds | No level skipping option

Puzzle games should be simple to understand and easy to grasp, with clear rules. The main mode in BNC Design Studios’ Wii U exclusive, Gemology, doesn’t exactly fit that description, but when it clicks, it clicks. Said main mode is Lapidiary, which is a play on the word lapidary, which in turn refers to a person who cuts, polishes, and engraves precious stones. The objective here is to remove all of the rock formations from a Tetris-like play area. Much like Tetris, a row can be removed (and turned into sparkly gems in the process) when it is full. Unlike Tetris, it’s up to the player to decide which rows to remove, and often, order is key.

gemology_screen3

Actually filling in rows is where the mode gets complicated. The player must use dynamite to drop boulders onto the play area. A boulder may simply land and stay put or roll a distance based on simple physics. Tapping a boulder causes it to break into 5 smaller gems, which similarly fall or slide into whatever nooks and crannies gravity dictates. The gems line up with the rock formations, and full rows are [hopefully] born.

Adding yet another layer to the gameplay, the rock formations that beg to be turned into precious stone are nigh unshakable. Sometimes you may be left with something that looks like this:

gemology_screen1

Or this:

gemology_screen2

Rocks clinging to the walls can be tricky to remove, but the parts of a formation that are suspended away from the walls can be instantly transformed into usable gems when a row below is completed.

These many facets make for a complex puzzler that feels startlingly unique and, for the most part, satisfying…but only after the game finally makes sense. Unfortunately, it doesn’t explain itself very well. There are a handful of tutorial stages, but they are plagued with a few problems: first, the text accompanying them is in a font that is, if you can believe it, too swirly, making it it unnecessarily difficult to read. This is an issue throughout the game, from the main menu to the options screen to the game’s second mode, Annealiation (more on this later).

gemology_menu_screen

The tutorials themselves are not set up in a clear way, either. They are set in a semi-transparent box with arrows pointing to the relevant elements on the screen. They end up being a confusing attempt to explain an already confusing concept, especially since they don’t put much emphasis on one of the mode’s most important skills.

Lapidiary will stump you quite frequently, if my experience was any indication, though that is not a bad thing in itself. However, yet another thorn in the side of user-friendliness is the fact that you can’t skip levels and return later; the mode’s later levels will remain untouched if you hit a snag. This is especially frustrating due to the mode’s somewhat wonky difficulty curve. Many levels feel like an exercise in guess and check, while others feel much more worthy of your time.

Another omitted function that could have made the levels themselves feel more streamlined is an “Undo” feature. Levels can be restarted completely, but the ability to undo individual moves would have been a boon.

Fortunately, Annealiation is a much simpler experience and makes for a nice contrast to Lapidiary. In Annealiation, quick reflexes are key. It tasks you with using the GamePad’s touchscreen to combine gems of the same color to make them larger, then to drag them safely out of reach of a rising pool of lava for a high score. The game ends when the lava reaches a certain point, and the lava rises quicker the more gems it consumes. The concept is solid and fun, if a bit mindless.

gemology_screen4

Gemology’s presentation aims for a fun, carefree style, and it does alright. The background textures won’t blow you away, but the sense of being underground is solid. The gems in the game are all at once colorful and organic in appearance.

I would feel remiss if I didn’t give a special mention to the game’s music; there are only a handful of tracks, but they sound great and sometimes even contain mining clinks and clanks that only add to the atmosphere of the game.

The Recommendation

If you can overcome Gemology’s initial difficulty spike, you may uncover a worthwhile experience. The slow-paced Lapidiary mode has a lot of great levels that will test your wits nicely. However, it has a handful of puzzles that will have you begging for the option to skip them, which is not present. Annealiation is a simpler mode that provides a great change of pace from Lapidiary. The game is topped off by average visuals and a surprisingly catchy soundtrack.

Summary

SHARE THIS POST

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Holly Fellmeth View all posts by
Site Manager/Editor - Holly's favorite hobby is playing new or different games. She believes there is no other medium that can offer such weird and wacky things as the gaming industry can. Her Nintendo Network ID is Aeroweth.