Flaming Hammer Games is establishing quite a run this year with its casual puzzle game lineup. Back in March, we reviewed Collaptris and deemed it a solid match-three title. Flaming Hammer is back with Gemclusion, a puzzle game for Android that, while not spectacular, succeeds in its goal of grabbing the player’s attention for short bursts of time.
Gemclusion is built upon a handful of simple game rules. On each level, there are a handful of discs that must be combined together by making them collide. Sliding a finger on the screen in either a vertical or horizontal direction forces all discs to move in that direction assuming there are no barriers. While there are normal stage boundaries, there are also colored walls inserted in the paths. These walls can only be breached by a disc of the same color. When combining discs together, the color of the resulting disc changes. There’s an element of strategy in combining discs neither too early nor too late to successfully get through all of the necessary barriers. As the game progresses, a wider variety of these barriers are introduced forcing the player to think well ahead.
Success is not only determined by whether the player succeeds in combining all the discs, but also in how efficient they are in the process. The number of moves performed and a running timer determine your overall rating for the level. The rating is presented using an Angry Birds-like three-star scoring system. Scoring high marks isn’t just for show either, as there are total star requirements that need to be met in order to progress through the series of levels. Often I was happy just to finish a level, but I would eventually have to go back and try to bump my one-star rating to a two or three. The star requirements are fairly easy to meet early on, but they become much more restrictive after about a dozen or so levels. It’s almost best to immediately retry a successful level in order to improve the score while the puzzle is still fresh in the player’s mind. Thankfully, the level select screen offers a preview of the level so that players can formulate a strategy before the clock starts running.
There’s nothing amazing or awe-inspiring about Gemclusion. It’s exactly what it was meant to be which is a casual puzzle game with a clever ruleset. The 20 levels are just the right amount. It’s enough time to get the player accustomed to learning the rules and bettering their skills, but not so long that the game overstays its welcome. The addition of online leaderboards might’ve given the game some additional replayability, but it’s hard to complain when Gemclusion does the job of hooking the player for its intended brief lifespan. Sometimes it’s best to do something small and do it very well. Gemclusion is available for free through Google Play.
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