Thanks to Treefall Studios for the review code
Title: The Gem Collector
System: Wii U (eShop)
Release Date: 09/08/2016
Outside of some slow moving text in the intro and the final stage, there’s really not much of a story outside of “king gone bad, steal gems and you must defeat king to stop bullying and speak up.”
Instead of relying on NES-Era sprites like almost every other platformer on the planet, The Gem Collector tries to shake things up by going with ordinary pixel art for the characters and leaving the backgrounds to be ordinary 2D images. While the player characters and some enemies look good, the same can’t be said for the platforms and levels themselves, with a lot of them consisting of floating bricks with little detail to make them sound out, outside of some torches or gates here and there. It comes off as a bit generic in some levels while decent at best in others, making it a pretty underwhelming sight to look at, but nothing that’ll make your eyes burn.
Music and Sound
The second the title screen shows up you’re greeted to a really, really bad theme song that sounds as if it was composed manually in Garageband, giving off a weird tropical/happy vibe that jumps out the window the moment you get into the actual game, where the majority of the themes end up being synth tracks that sound as if they’re meant to relax rather than get you excited for the journey ahead, and for the most part they sound OK, at the very least hundreds of times better than the title screen song. Each world has its own theme, while a few bonus levels here and there get their own unique songs as well, so it does have a bit of variety despite using the same instruments for the majority of the adventure.
The moment you gain control of your character the controls seem deceptively simple, with Y being a run button, B being a jump button and the back right trigger shooting your projectiles, but there’s a catch along with some minor things that make it slightly more frustrating to control than your average platformer. For one thing, by default your jump is a super jump that is high enough to avoid most of the obstacles, but sometimes you’ll need to jump a short distance, only to find that you’re seemingly unable to with the B button. The game’s solution? None other than having you hold the back left trigger and then pressing B, leading to some baffling moments when I want to make a short jump only to jump too high and cling to a wall, another thing the player character likes to do often. (The game classifies this as a feature by the way despite it serving no real purpose in the main levels and is more often than not likely to sent you into a pit.) This can be pretty annoying in the few levels that require such platforming, but thankfully those are few and far between, although I couldn’t help but wonder why the height wasn’t determined by how long you held the button or by holding up and then jump to jump higher.
One thing I briefly mentioned in my summary of the controls above was the ability to shoot with the back right trigger, and that may make you think this would be a game similar to Mega Man, but you would be sadly mistaken. You see, you can choose between three weapons with the D-Pad, although only two of them seem to do anything helpful. (one being the basic attack and the other to light torches with a blue one doing nothing no matter where I tested it) This also means that movement requires you to use the joystick, something that I find very irritating in a 2D platformer due to D-Pads offering for better precision.
Thankfully the overall difficulty of the game isn’t too bad, making it easier to get used to than some other games who use joystick for movement while also throwing everything at you. That being said, be warned that during the course of the main levels there are three auto scrolling levels which will instantly kill you if you touch the bottom edge (or left edge in one case) of the screen, which can cause a lot of frustration, ESPECIALLY in the case of World 3’s auto-level which thankfully doesn’t last too long. There is a bit of a challenge if you want to collect every item in each stage, which will unlock bonus levels for you to complete in each world.
There is one way you can make this game ultra hard if all of the above sounds too easy, and that’s by participating in the co-op. With one Wii U Pro Controller and a friend you can add a second player to collect gems and fight enemies, although this can lead to a TON of chaos that makes some levels near impossible (like the auto scrollers) due to the fact that you share a lifebar and if one person dies then so does the other. Expect to see the game over screen with “Don’t worry, you tried your best” many, MANY times if you try to beat the game’s five worlds like this, which I barely managed to do with a friend save for a few levels that I had to do solo.
In conclusion The Gem Collector ends up being a bit of a disappointment. While it did have a fun concept with simple levels where you collect gems, its executed very, very poorly, mainly due to some baffling control decisions, dull level design and chaotic Co-Op. There’s honestly no reason to pick this game up compared to other eShop platformers like Gunman Clive. Still, if you like chaotic fun in your video game and want to give a friend and yourself a challenge, or would just like a casual platformer to spend a weekend on then The Gem Collector will at least provide moderate entertainment for that price. I give The Gem Collector a 6 out of 10.