Gemsweeper Review

By Joel Brodie |

We know many Gamezebo fans have spent countless hours clicking away at “Minesweeper” over the years, that deliciously simple yet mind-frazzling game of deduction built into the Windows operating system.

Well, it’s about time someone took this game concept a step further – and MumboJumbo and Lobstersoft were the ones to take the plunge.

The result is Gemsweeper, a highly-polished puzzler that is as fun as it is tough.

Instead of trying to figure out where bombs are hidden on a grid, Gemsweeper – as the name suggests – challenges players to uncover hidden treasure by breaking through rocks. Your goal? These colored gems will help Topex, a mythical big-headed statue, reconstruct the temples of his hometown of El Dorado. As you advance from level to level, your journey will be accompanied by Professor McGuffog, who guides you with rules, hints and the occasional cheesy joke.

The Gemsweeper game-play works as follows: players are presented with a grid of stones – say, 5 x 5 tiles of rows and columns – and the stones are faced down so you don’t know what’s behind them. Your goal is to uncover all the gems buried here and not click on the “cursed” tiles (“bombs” in Minesweeper). You are given a numerical hint along the side and top for each row (horizontal) and column (vertical), indicating how many gems are in that line and you must deduce where they are on the grid with this information.

The layout of the numbers and additional rules you’re provided with will govern how you’ll successfully find these gems. For example, If you see the numbers “2,” followed by a “1” to the left of a row, this means there is a clump of two gems and a single gem to the right of it. One rule you learn early on is that clumped gems must be adjoining and there must be a space between them and the next gem.

If you’ve deduced a spot that must be a cursed tile, you can right mouse-click and use the hammer to smash the piece, which removes it from the board (so you don’t accidentally click on it). Should you click on a cursed tile by mistake, it eats away at your clock – oh, did I mention you only have a certain amount of time to finish each level? – or if you click on cursed stones too often you’ll lose the game.

After you’ve completed the level, it will resemble a shape, like a shirt or tree, and the good ‘ol Prof will make some kind of cheesy joke before you move on.

Levels get much tougher as you advance through the game by introducing much bigger grids (such as 10 x 10), along with new rules and power-ups. If you use the hammer to break a gem by mistake (thinking it’s a cursed stone), some “magic glue” can repair the tile – but you only have a few to use per level.

One small issue with the game, which was probably a technical bug, is when the game didn’t let me use the right mouse button as a hammer, though it was checked off accordingly in the Options menu. This only happened once.

Along with the regular Quest mode, players can tackle the Arcade mode for added replayability. In this alternative mode, which is similar to a feature introduced later in the Quest mode, as soon as a row is completed, it’s replaced by a new row; after the gem stack is full, you’ll get a new puzzle.

Gemsweeper is a refreshingly different (and difficult) game for puzzle fans. It will especially appeal to those who love Minesweeper or other grid games of deduction, such as Sudoku. It does, however, take a good hour or so for it to pick up – but watch out – once it does, it can be one tough puzzler to keep up with.

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