Boy o boy, what have we here?  It’s Gemmed! from Wasted Pixel.  The original Bejeweled has become such a massive phenomenon that even its gameplay has a name, ’match 3′.  The Internet is absolutely lousy with clones now and the app store is in lock-step.  Fortunately, developers are pulling out all the stops to keep this genre fresh and exciting and Wasted Pixel turns in a fine, fine effort here.

At the core of Gemmed!, you will indeed be matching 3-5 gems horizontally or vertically to remove them from the board for points while gravity fills the empty spots with more gems.  Been there, done that you say?  Well stay thy indifference as this is where it gets interesting.  Simply clearing the board of gems isn’t the goal here; what you need to do is get 1-6 ‘monsters’ (loosely patterned after Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde) to their color-coded exits around the border of the playfield (50 levels total).  Unfortunately the game doesn’t give names to the monsters which is a shame as they have gobs of personality.  For example, they’ll fall asleep if they haven’t moved in awhile and if 2 or more end up adjacent to each other they’ll start synchronized dancing.  Each monster will automatically chomp like-colored gems as long as it gets them closer to their exit.  This is great stuff as you occasionally get treated to very Pac-Man-esque interludes as the monsters munch their way across the screen.  Each monster has a special powerup and as you clear gems, a progress bar is incremented for each one and once full, the powerup is placed randomly on the screen.  There are also special white and black ’ghost’ monsters representing good and evil that aren’t present onscreen but otherwise work the same with color-coded progress bars.  The good ghost will give you a random helpful powerup while the evil ghost’s is a hindrance.  Powerups are well-done and include things like randomizing all onscreen gems, turning all like-colored gems into dynamite, instantly rescuing a monster, an awesome lightning strike and taking time off the clock.  You get big bonus points for clearing levels quickly but thankfully you aren’t held to any specific time and can take as long as you like to finish a level.  As you play, ‘trophies’ are awarded for various oddball achievements like getting a monster to its exit in only 1 move; I just love this feature in games so its inclusion here is fantastic.  Fans of Bejeweled 2 on the iPhone certainly know all about the crushing defeat of the Mortal Kombat-ish ’NO MORE MOVES’.  Fortunately you can earn replays in Gemmed! so that problem is handily resolved here.  You can also enable (and disable supposedly, more later) a hint feature that shows possible moves if you’re idle for a certain time.  One thing you won’t see is the ability to rotate the phone to change gravity and frankly, I don’t miss it.  The game is relatively easy through the first 20 levels or so but most definitely gets more challenging so casual fans are covered in the first half while match 3 jockeys should be challenged in the 2nd.  A thoughtful feature is when you pause the game it shows the actual time.   Lastly, you can save your game and it autosaves when a call comes in.

The graphics, sound, music and overall presentation are simply top-notch.  All entities are well-drawn, whimsically animated and a pleasure to behold while the sounds are right on.

There’s very little to gripe about with Gemmed! but I do have a few minor ones.  First, there’s an option to disable the music but iTunes music isn’t supported.  Further, with music off the ’synchronized dance’ of the monsters is accompanied by a neat little beat but with it on, not present (and missed).  Second, the gem graphics, while detailed, look more like hard candies than gems and crikey the brown ones look like rabbit offal.  There’s an alternate ‘theme’ which changes the gem gfx but visually I find it worse.  I would love to see the gem graphics updated to be a lot more ‘gem-y’.  Lastly, and I hope this one gets fixed quick, is that I can’t for the life of me turn off the auto-hint feature.  N00bs to the genre will need this sure but seasoned players will definitely find it a distraction. 

That’s honestly about all I can say there as otherwise this game is just superb and any fan of match 3 games really needs this one in their library.  It’s slick, polished and shiny, just like a gem indeed.  If you don’t believe me try the lite version and see for yourself; I think you’ll end up purchasing it.

Quick note, the price image shows $1.99 but this represented a sale which has ended so the review has been tagged with the normal price of $2.99.

Version reviewed – 1.2
Global scoreboard – yes
iTunes music supported – no
Lite version available – yes

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