Traps & Gemstones review

Title screen

Traps & Gemstones bucks traditional iOS naming conventions by being a Metroidvania, rather than a match-3 Puzzles & Dragons clone. That’s noteworthy as it is, but the game itself is pretty solid, too.

The goal of the game, condensed to fit in a handy text bubble.

The game features an unnamed archaeologist whose quest is to descend into a dangerous pyramid in search of 25 relics that have been stolen from their proper altars. Fortunately, the thieves placed the relics into easily-accessed treasure chests within the same pyramid that they stole the relics from in the first place. Courteous thieves, aren’t they?

Inventory and map screenLike any good Metroidvania, collecting items and returning relics to their altars open up previously blocked passages, allowing further exploration. The focus on collecting relics over items, though, means that your character doesn’t really gain much in terms of powers and abilities throughout the game. It also means that the game can be quite obtuse at times, as the altars do not give any hints as to what relic should be placed there.

The control scheme is a bit unusual, with left and right on one hand and up and down (jumping and rolling, respectively) on the other. When you obtain the whip, which is your only weapon throughout the game, a button appears above the up and down arrows. Most actions such as collecting coins and opening chests are done automatically, and a large pop-up window appears when you need to use an item or place a relic.

These controls work well and it doesn’t take too long to get used to the unusual placement. Unfortunately for those who prefer conspicuous consumerism, the game doesn’t have controller support, although the game is so simple that it probably isn’t necessary to begin with.

Caves are scary!

Your character is a One Hit Point Wonder who frequently dies to hazards such as spikes, scorpions, mummies, and piranhas. Fortunately, the game is quite forgiving: dying merely returns you to the entrance of the current room. On the flip side, though, dying also returns your score to zero. Traps & Gemstones has Game Center support, with achievements and leaderboards tracking your high scores.

Traps & Gemstones is enjoyable for a bit, but the lack of new powers and abilities hurts the game. For some players, shooting for high scores might let them get a bit more entertainment out of the game, but as a whole, it feels shallow. The game is on sale for $2.99 for the month of July to celebrate the official launch, but if you miss out, I’d recommend waiting for another sale before you pull out your credit card.