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GameBox Gems by PDAmill, Price: $9.95
Reviewed September, 2003 by LightMan

Gem games are one of the most popular game types for the Pocket PC platform. However, the quantity does NOT mean quality and a considerable percentage of those gems games lack several qualities required to be called a good game. So, I think there was definitely room for a really good gems game and after reading that this one was from PDAmill (responsible for my all-time favorite Snails), needless to say I was very eager to check it out.

GameBox Gems is PDAmill’s 3rd game in the GameBox series, after the all-rounder GameBox Classics and the excellent GameBox Solitaire. GameBox Gems is composed of 8 variations of gems games:

Rising Diamonds: Keep the peak level of the gem pile low by removing fields of similar gems
Jewel Master: Clean the levels by removing joined patches of similar gems without leaving anything
Ruby Connection: Clean the levels by connecting and removing similar gems using flexible wires
Sunstone swap: Arrange three or more similar gems in a row by rotating blocks of four
Crystal Cave-In: Clean levels by moving gems to form 5 in a row while more gems drop
Stone Stacker: Form groups of three or more similar gems from falling pieces
Sapphire Spires: Form horizontal, vertical or diagonal lines from the falling triples of gems
Stone Stacker+: Form groups of similar gems from the falling pieces and the rising pile

Each game has its own storyline so be sure to check it out as it is neatly thought out (love the names of the characters) and it’s kinda funny at times. It had to be well done, since it’s Jaybot (Jason Surguine) behind it, the guy behind all Snails text and audio.

In order to let the player know which gems will be available next, there is a visual indication of the next 3 gems on the top left corner of the screen. Some games have power ups like bombs that blow up a good amount of gems, razor blades that help cut down the number of gems, weights to “sink” those extra gems, etc. Note that not all power ups are friendly. Each game type has its individual hi-score table and depending on the game type, you have 1, 2, 3 or more “lives” or attempts.

The difficulty of GameBox Gems is well balanced. Some games are a bit easier than others and even in the more challenging games, the first few levels are simple enough to allow the gamer to get into it before the real difficulties arise. A resume feature would have been very handy, especially since some games can be a bit long as you advance to high levels.

The graphics are very polished and colorful, turning a “simple” gem game into a very appealing and pleasant visual experience: smooth looking menus, nice backgrounds, groovy characters (one per each game type), excellent sprites and animations for the gems. Sapphire Spires (columns clone), Stone Stacker and Stone Stacker+ are played using the hardware keys. All other games are played using the stylus.

Sound and music are often neglected in such games, especially the music, but not in PDAmill games. Once again, as they did in a fantastic way in Snails and followed up nicely in GameBox Classics and GameBox Solitaire, the sounds and music are very polished and extremely well done. They enhance the theme of the game and provide a very joyful and nice atmosphere for gamers.

Conclusion:
Naturally, having 8 games in one package is a big plus for any puzzle game. Not only will every gamer find something they like in GameBox Gems, but it also adds immense replay value. So, “Is it worth it?” you ask. Definitely! There is not a doubt in my mind. Currently priced at $9.95, this is an excellent deal. This is THE “gems game” so far for the Pocket PC. The quality of the game shows in every little sprite or detail of the game. It’s fun, it looks good, sounds good and it’s so easy just to pick up and play. PDAmill have done an excellent job in turning a simple game like gems into a very enjoyable game!

 

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Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics Excellent graphics for a gems game.
Sound Varied and joyful music provides an excellent atmosphere.
Fun Meter If there’s one adjective that we can use for this GameBox, that would be FUN.
Addictivity 8 addictive gems games in one package is a gems fan’s dream come true.


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