REVIEW – The Gem Collector (Wii U)

There are a few notable indie developers on the Nintendo scene right now, but only a handful of those produce some real gems worthy of picking up. One such game is The Gem Collector from TreeFall studios. If you don’t know anything about TreeFall studios, I’ll sum them up in one word – passionate. The team at TS started out with The Letter, which admittedly came across as someone’s first attempt at using Unity, rather than a complete game, but hey, I own it and I’m happy with the purchase. What was evident in the game and in all the posts, video interviews, etc was that the team passionate about the game and getting better. Moving on from there, we received Maze which was most definitely a step up and it was quickly followed by The Perplexing Orb. All three of these games were done in 3D. But the team at TS also created a little 2D game called Journey of a Special Average Balloon. You can see that this developer has a nice bit of history to back them up. It’s rather impressive for a 1 man team (plus some on occasion.) Now that you’re all caught up, let’s focus on the latest entry from TreeFall Studios. The Gem Collector is a 2D platformer built in Unity which tasks players with collecting gems in order to save the world. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s a gem of a game.

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Players take control of Nomi – from the Earth tribe – in order to guide him through multiple levels of platforming goodness as he searches for gems in over 21 levels. Each world contains five levels and one bonus level (which can only be accessed once every gem in every level of that world is collected.) In order to complete a level, players must seek out the 3 large gems scattered across each level. Once all 3 gems are collected, a key appears. Collecting the key will end the level.

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Standing in your way are enemies of varying difficulty, tricky platforming sections, and some rather “floaty” controls. The only weapon at hand (literally) are beams that shoot out of your hands from the left and the right. You can switch between 3 different beams as well. I’m not sure if one is more powerful than the other, but I know the different beams are used to activate certain switches. However, beams (ammo) are limited so it is possible to run out and then you may just find yourself stuck and needing to restart a level. Along the way you can also try and collect every small gem, which isn’t always easy. But if you do that for all the levels, a Bonus room opens for that world. Unfortunately I have yet to unlock a bonus room, so I can’t tell you what’s inside. Additionally, you can even take control of a parrot in some levels who allows you to fly into hard to reach places in order to collect gems or open the path for Nomi. There is no explanation for the bird, but it’s a neat addition which serves to change up the flow of the game. Now the game itself isn’t too difficult, but the challenge does ramp up when trying to collect every gem. And I did find that in one vertical scrolling level, I died more than 20 times trying to collect every gym, so I’d say it was a bit challenging.

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I mentioned before an issue with the controls. I found that controlling Nomi at times was a bit difficult due to the loose, floaty feel of the controls. You can hold down a button to run and also a button to make short hops rather than the standard jump, but even still, I felt that the way Nomi run and stops was too quick, too abrupt. I suppose I’ve just gotten used to controlling Mario that anything less than that grabs my attention.

In terms of the graphics, I really like the visuals, especially all the little touches you’ll find in each level. Some of these little touches include moths fluttering about near a flaming torch, particle effects when you collect big gems, or even just the little mushrooms sticking out of the side of platforms and much more. It may not be the greatest quality in terms of visuals, but there was clearly some concerted effort put into the art. As for the music and sound effects, I can say that I am a fan. I really enjoyed listening to the tunes in each level, especially the caverns.

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If you’re a fan of 2D platformers and want a challenging, but not insanely difficult experience, give the Gem Collector a try. Any issues with the controls are able to be overlooked and if you can do that, you’ll find a gem of game to play. Plus, you’ll be supporting an indie developer who is passionate and cares about improving the quality of his games.

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