There’s never been a better time to get rid of a certain precious metal, with its value higher than ever. Happily, according to pleasing new action-puzzler Gold Rush – Treasure Hunt, there’s never been a better time to find it as well. Having ventured deep within the title’s computerized caverns, we concur: While not the most frantic or captivating of its breed, the game nonetheless proves fun and challenging, especially when enjoyed in short spurts.
Guided by the ghost of Prospector Jack – doomed to haunt certain shafts due to his greed – you’ll venture deep within caverns filled with fabulous rewards, and equal danger. The goal: Find gold nuggets, which, when returned to the mustachioed specter, cause him to tell more of his tale and further one’s progress.
Storyline largely takes a backseat to actual play though, with the outing a basic mouse-mashing brainteaser at heart, akin to nothing so much as the 16-bit (read: Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis) mindbenders of yore. Still, there’s a cool campaign treasure map to travel along, multiple mines to visit and an overarching coin-collecting goal to keep you engaged throughout.
As for on-screen action, veteran gamers will find that, superficially at least, it resembles nothing so much as Namco’s venerable classic Mr. Driller. Each stage essentially consists of a downward-scrolling cave inhabited by blocks of various color. These squares tumble downwards according to the laws of gravity, falling to close in gaps when lower-situated peers are removed. They’re also automatically drawn together, filling in any intervening spaces, when located adjacent to one another.
Your goal: Keep stacks from reaching the top of the screen. Doing so is as simple as clicking on groups of three or more similarly-colored squares, which – when highlighted – disappear, causing the blocks above to come tumbling down. Keep at it long enough to clear a trio, quartet or more of gold nuggets, which appear after descending long enough, and the stage ends in a brilliant flash of scintillating light.
If the setup all sounds a bit too straightforward at first, remember – several details make your repeated trips deep into the earth more appealing. Think playfields which scroll faster the further you get; obstacles like rock formations, breakable granite blocks, rising gas bubbles and side-mounted shelves; bonus multipliers and row-smashing or time-adding power-ups; and treasure chests that can be reunited with keys for cool bonuses, just for starters.
A pleasing 100 individual challenges – which demand you clear X many blocks, reach a certain depth or accuracy rating, or remove all squares from the screen to open containers hiding Jack’s precious loot – also entertain. Still, much as all the basic “simple to learn, hard to master” elements are in place, the tale never grips you quite the way the best coin-operated classics do.
Nevertheless, when experienced in brief, bite-sized sessions, the epic proves a great way to relax and unwind. While it’s tiresome watching canned animations play every time you select a pickaxe and drill or open a new chest and waiting for boards to advance (right-click to access new rows of blocks faster), there’s definitely a simple, addictive quality to the outing that’ll keep you coming back. Little touches like a fast-paced, swashbuckler movie-style soundtrack and stones which tumble one by one down sloped embankments help add charm. Even if, that is, this isn’t the sort of all-consuming diversion, a la Tetris, that’ll have you dreaming up new gameplay strategies in your sleep.
As finger-tapping desktop mindbenders go, you could certainly do better, or worse. Sitting slightly ahead of the curve though due to excellent polish and balancing (not to mention novel concept), however, Gold Rush – Treasure Hunt proves well worth its weight in, well, you know…