Designed for people who simply can’t get enough of marble-popping games like Zuma, Camelia’s Locket offers up 100 levels of ball-blasting action.
The game’s pirate themed narrative sees players slowly assembling a crew of misfit sailors – including a pair of ancient skeletons, a monkey, and the beautiful Captain Scarlet Revenge, among others – each of whom has his or her own objectives, such as finding a jeweled spyglass, a golden banana, or the titular necklace. You can skip past the story, but I found the surprisingly well-penned piratical idioms, which the game’s characters are prone to spout off, to function as a pleasant distraction between levels.
As far as actual play goes, the buccaneer theme is more or less window dressing. Level backgrounds are composed of beautiful swirling seas, our ball launcher is a stout little pirate ship with a gaping hole in its prow, and an adventurous, nautical-sounding score accompanies us throughout. However, virtually any audio/visual motif could have been applied without changing the way the game is played.
The objective is to blast away balls rolling along a set path toward an explosive terminal by creating groups of three or more of the same color. As noted above, this mechanic was clearly inspired by Zuma and similar games. However, Camelia’s Locket has a few tricks of its own.
For starters, rather than firing off balls generated by the launcher, we instead harpoon and tow in balls from the snaking line at which we are also taking aim. This changes the traditional dynamic considerably, since players usually have access to any color of ball and can more easily set up big chains. The towing mechanic isn’t perfect – the chain occasionally veers off course without cause, spearing a different ball than the one targeted – but, overall, it’s a clever and very player-empowering concept.
However, a consequence is that it makes the game significantly less challenging. Many levels can be quickly completed simply by keeping an eye peeled for strands of three or more like-colored balls, sucking one away, and firing it right back to its initial spot to make them all disappear.
Things become even easier as players start to acquire special types of ammunition that can either be fished out of the meandering line of balls at which we’re firing or purchased from a pirate shop between levels. These power-up balls include a smashing hammer that can do away with dozens of balls in seconds; lightning, ice, and meteor strikes that destroy all balls wherever they touch down; and a narrow laser beam that instantly removes groups of balls on a given line.
I used these power-ups whenever I could, which had the effect of making the game somewhat effortless. Indeed, I failed to complete only a handful of levels on my first try, and finished most in well under two minutes. With no harder difficulties to select or additional modes from which to choose, I had wrung just about every drop of fun I could from Camelia’s Locket in under four hours.
Players can try to achieve a gold medal in every level by completing them faster and being more selective and efficient with the balls they choose to tow in, but there is no reward for upgrading your metal; all of the game’s 25 trophies get handed out during the course of the story.
It’s also worth mentioning that, of the 100 levels I mentioned at the outset, only 80 involve the lines of rolling balls slowly encroaching on the center of the board. The other 20 are simple mini-games in which the player shoots cannonballs at attacking vessels. They last only about 30 seconds to a minute each, and lose much of their appeal once you realize that they’re going to keep popping up every ten minutes until the end of the game.
So, despite strong production values, good writing, interesting innovations, and engaging play (excluding the brief cannonball levels), Camelia’s Locket is, strangely, difficult to recommend wholeheartedly. It may prove modestly challenging for players new to the genre, but it might prove too easy and too short to satisfy people who have any previous experience with marble popping games.