BNC Design Studios has revealed that its upcoming puzzle title, Gemology, will release in April on Wii U through the Nintendo eShop. Gemology is described as a 2.5D game that takes place in a mining setting. Its first mode finds players in a shaft filled with various formations of previous gems and large shapes that make up individual levels. A cave-in will periodically occur and rocks will fall from the top of the shaft. Rocks can break open via the stylus on the Wii U GamePad, after which small gems appear. When these smaller gems fall in and fit to complete a row, the player can then break up that larger gem formation piece by piece.
Soooo, it’s a Tetris clone, from the looks of it?
Microtransactions. It’s a grubby phrase in the eyes of many, mainly because it represents a concept that thrives on being small and inoffensive, yet has the capability to lead to extravagant costs or to simply wreck a game’s momentum. It’s worse than ‘free-to-play’, as a phrase, because it’s less honest – free-to-play might have simple paid unlocks, but microtransactions, at their worst, give you unpredictable rewards. You might pay for something and barely benefit, which is never a particularly enjoyable transaction.
Yet microtransactions make big bucks – ask any analyst tracking the smart device gaming market, and they’ll positively rub their hands together at the profits that are possible. From the outside looking in I’ve always thought of them as a form of betting – pay for this item or buff that doesn’t guarantee progress, and then buy it again. Or pay simply for the right to play, right after we’ve sucked you in with casino-style gameplay. The reason puzzle games and match-three games are so darn addictive is that, surprise-surprise, they trigger the obsessive nature in us. I’ve seen relatives play Columns II for hours on end on level 99 on the Genesis, back in the day, because it’s so entrancing.
When you pay up front for a game like that, then that’s just fine. It’s entertainment, after all. Yet iOS and Android tiles often play into that compulsive nature and try to monetise as you play, and with online wallets and funds automated it’s possible to spend ludicrous amounts before you realise what’s happened. It’s not hard to find horror stories of people becoming addicted to a game and spending small fortunes on microtransactions.
Today was interesting for me on multiple fronts, then. I downloaded Pokémon Shuffle to see how this first Nintendo dabble in this most treacherous and tough-to-balance models would shape up. I was also doing this as someone who avoids microtransactions like the plague and isn’t much of a Pokémon fan – the latter is a crazy confession, admittedly.
My initial thoughts were relatively positive. I rattled through the opening 11 stages which were structured as a tutorial, probably in about 30 or so minutes. In that time the game kept me going, gave me a ‘Jewel’ when I needed it, and registered me online to open up the eShop microtransactions and download a special event stage. It was all inoffensive, and I stopped naturally when my hearts ran out; I did note down the final details for the game’s economy, though, which are below.
1 Jewel – $0.99 / €0.99 / £0.89
6 Jewels – $4.99 / €4.99 / £4.49
12 Jewels – $8.99 / €8.99 / £8.09
35 Jewels – $24.99 / €24.99/ £22.49
75 Jewels – $47.99/€47.99/£42.99
5 hearts = 1 Jewel
18 hearts = 3 Jewels
38 hearts = 6 Jewels
80 hearts = 12 Jewels
3000 coins = 1 Jewels
10000 coins = 3 Jewels
22000 coins = 6 Jewels
48000 coins = 12 Jewels
At this stage the game unlocked a rather tricky ‘special event’, which is hard to clear, but after a few hours of letting my give hearts regenerate (30 minutes per heart) I began to progress through more of the ‘main’ levels. I got to a point of unlocking extra, more difficult stages, and this is where the setup becomes a little murkier. If you fail initially – as you have limited moves to defeat a ‘mon – the game offers an opportunity to add more moves (or time in the time-based special challenges) by using a Jewel; if you don’t have a jewel you can skip to the integrated eShop to buy some. I even redeemed a jewel that I’d earned but still couldn’t beat the level, feeling rather peeved as a result.
Before a stage you can use in-game coins to buy various tools, too, including options to add moves or strengthen your ‘team’ of ‘mon. Yet you can’t buy items with this in-game currency when you fail, but only use a jewel. It should also be noted that these items are expensive, many over 1000 coins; clearing a stage only typically rewards you with 100 coins, with greater rewards for occasional ‘boss’ encounters. When you combine the limited plays every 2.5 hours and modest coin rewards, there’s certainly a temptation to speed things up, which makes the option to buy coins with jewels tempting.
It all comes back to jewels, and we’re already butting up against stages that make items imperative. You can clear a stage without capturing the pocket monster, for example, as some have ludicrously low capture percentages that clearly necessitate a ‘Mega Ball’ and, yep, they’re pricey. When you add the fact that there’s only about 10-15 minutes gameplay in five hearts – though you can buy lots of hearts, only five will regenerate for free – there’s the possibility of achieving very little in each session without eventually spending some money. We have little doubt that it’ll be possible to beat the game for free, but it’ll take ages to do so, and a lot of Pokémon and extra stages seem borderline impossible without paying out.
My issue at the moment is pricing: with one jewel for $0.99 / €0.99 / £0.89 you’ll get either five hearts – 10-15 minutes play – or 3000 coins, which will get you a couple of truly useful items at the most, maybe just one. There’s a bit of economy at higher values, but the game would be better value if it was completely open for a one off cost of about $7.99 / €7.99 / £5.99, to fling some eShop prices out there. As it stands, it seems that truly enjoying the game – if the puzzling is doing the business for you – could turn into an endeavour that costs more than it should. Even if 15 minute bursts a few times in a day are enough for you, chances are that the level of difficulty and a desire to collect all ‘mon will tug at your wallet.
If we want to truly appreciate the motivations of this release, published by Nintendo or not, consider this detail from the manual:
“A spending limit of €100, £80, AU$150, NZ$150 (or equivalent) a month is in place for users below 18 years of age.
You can only carry up to 150 Jewels at a time”
There are some efforts to control spending, but let’s not dish out any rewards for benevolence just yet – that’s still allowing us to spend at least the value of two retail games a month on a match-three puzzle game.
I don’t think the balance is right, but gamers will ultimately vote with their wallets
Holy f***ing f***, I can barely scroll past this post. XD
i think you put more time and effort into this post than the developers did into the game
K this game just does it require lots of thinking, cuz I can’t play like that. It looks like it can be an ok colour palette game and ok gameplay, but darn, if I have to think too much, there is a problem here. This is why I praise Smash Bros., cuz it is very fun to play, and at the same time you just have to click press a lot of buttons, so it’s kinda easy, but i love it. It’s always why I cant play Mario kart, it has much action for me to follow.
So I ask, is this game ok to play without a think in my brain? Seriously, lst thing I want is a headache from an Indie game :/ Colour palette can’t ruin my brain cuz it’s quite dark and non distracting.
By the looks of things- it [the game] looks like a puzzle game. Sooooo…. yeah it requires a think in your brain…
But it looked fun…hopefully they say it’s a puzzle, when it is actually a button smasher. It actually does sort of look like a button smasher…smash buttons to make those objects explode. Maybe that is something you can do.
Alright, its time to STOP allowing some of these games for a little while. I love a good idea just like anyone else. But not every Pony grows up to be a Pegasus. I’m aware this probably reads off like bitxhing, but I feel a lot of these games are traart. Which is trash art. I wanted a trayardart, but that doesn’t work…
It’s always nice to see stuff published commercially that let’s me know, I could create a visual design that’s more balanced and doesn’t look like some stock objects thrown together.
So yeah, I guess I don’t like how it looks. And I think that’s quite a big deal in a game like this. Needs more harmony. But as I wish every Indie dev on the planet all the luck on earth I’ll do it here again.
looks like a budget game that was on a pc back in 1990s
That could be said about 99% of all indie games. Can’t wsit for this fad to be over. It’s the Atari era all over again but this time Nintendo’s involvement is contrary to their old beliefs. I wonder who will save it this time? Can it even be saved? Stay tuned folks.
OMG! I can’t contain my excitement, I think I’m about to explode. This is the GOAT. This is will win all the game awards next year, including BAFTA’s. €50? €70? €100? Take it all now.
Why would we want news of Xenoblade or Zelda when we’ve got this pushing the system to the limit? This is exactly what I pictured when I spent €350 on my Wii U at launch.
Hey MNN, why do you promote games like this? Games like this contribute to the degradation of the industry and they also reveal just how overused game genres are becoming, it’s depressing.
Clearly you know nothing about anything, go back to your cave…
Considering hes/she’s correct, maybe you’re the clueless cattle at the moment, and several times before.
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This is almost getting as bad as the xbox live indie arcade…such terrible looking games…all reskins of others….we need more Shantaes, more Shovel Knights, more gems among these indie games…we don’t need terrible puzzle games and flappy bird reskins, we just don’t.
Better then anything on xb1.