A throwback to a simpler era.
Originally released for PC back in 2013, The Gem Collector is an old-school platforming game at heart, reminiscent in its visuals to games like Pitfall, which were straightforward in design, yet engaging.
The Gem Collector has you play as Nomi, the volunteer gem collector from the Earth Tribe. The goal of the game is simple. Collect the gems located in each area until you capture the key. This will unlock additional worlds until you make your way to the very end.
Aside from the basic mechanics of running and jumping (and short jump), the game adds beams that can be shot to kill enemies, or with a twist, give it different powers, which in turn you can fire at objects to reveal hidden gems. The controls are surprisingly responsive, which is a welcome addition when translated from a PC to the Wii U GamePad or the Pro Controller.
At first when I loaded the game, I believed it would be strictly a ‘kiddie’ game based on the main characters’ look and charm. That changed soon-after I started playing it, experiencing death after death. The game itself helps you by placing hearts in different sections of each level as well as checkpoints. But even with the additional help, you will find yourself looking at that ‘Game Over’ screen plenty of times and starting the level over.
The music on the game is a standout, giving it a lighter tone which feels very relaxing and oftentimes keeps you from throwing your controller against the ground in frustration at the harder levels.
What separates this game from other platformers is the ability to play the entire game with a friend. TreeFall Studios has included a co-op option, with a second player joining at any point in the game. Also, the player can exit out of the game at any time without any penalties. Sometimes we would do strategies where a player who had difficulty jumping through areas would drop out of the level, only to come back in once the other player had completed those arduous jumps. Other times I would run out of beams to shoot, and the second player would take over shooting.
To play co-op you will be required to have a Pro controller, as the Wiimote and Nunchuk is not supported. Both characters can be seen on the TV at ounce, but branch far enough from one another and the game changes automatically to Off TV play. One player playing on the GamePad screen and the other continuing on the TV. By this same token, the game can be played on the Wii U GamePad without requiring a Television.
The downside to playing co-op is that it becomes even more evident that the stages themselves are short, which is a shame since branching in separate paths to complete different goals would have been a lot of fun. Since the entire game can be finished solo, there are no puzzles that need to be specifically solved using two players.
It is very possible that you will not capture all of the gems on your first playthrough. This is fine because you can go back and replay each level. There are five worlds in total, each featuring a bonus level, with the Fifth and last world having the final boss. An additional level called ‘Dinglah’s Treasure Horde’ opens up once you have collected every single item in the game.
My biggest complaint with the game is the lack of story. I understand that this is a simple platformer, but I want to know more about the character I am controlling and the world he is experiencing. What I know from his backstory is actually taken from the description of the game. Even if this game does not have a AAA budget, it would have benefited from a ‘storybook’ type delivery, having a static image with text you could read of the story itself. Instead (unless I missed something throughout my journey) the only real line of text explaining the plot comes at the very end, when you defeat the last boss. It is here that you learn of the characters’ name (Nomi), his kingdom (Ashne Kingdom) and the last boss (Dinglah).
The Gem Collector is a short, albeit fun entry to the Wii U indie collection. It is a game that can be played both by little kids enamored with the simplicity of the main character and stages, as well as by adults who want to see if they are capable of uncovering all of its secrets. The stages themselves are short, as once you finish the game you are left feeling that the end came too soon. For those that can master the game early can look forward to one and a half to two hours to complete the entire game. TreeFall has a ‘gem’ in their hands, which they can continue to polish into a great experience for years to come.