Lobstersoft’s new puzzle game, Gemsweeper, has all the makings of an addictive desktop game. The levels are small, the game can be saved at any point and there is just enough challenge to the game to be fun without being overwhelming or all-consuming. There is even is a brief storyline to the game that makes it seems as though there is a higher, albeit foolish, purpose to one’s playing.

The storyline revolves around a treasure hunter/archeologist and his helper at the ruins of El Dorado. The player, as the junior member of the team, must complete each level in order to help restore temples in the city.

Each puzzle consists of a multitude of tiles set up in a grid formation. Some tiles have gems beneath them and some do not. Above each column and next to each row of tiles there is a number that represents the number of gems hidden underneath each individual row or column. Thus, a 5 above a column with eight tiles in it means that there are five gems hidden somewhere under those eight tiles. The goal of each level is to find all the gems and eliminate all the blank tiles through mouse clicks. There is a time limit for each level and bonus points are awarded for making no mistakes. Conversely, mistakes can remove time from the level clock.

Though Gemsweeper looks different and has slightly different rules, it very much has the feel of the classic Windows game Minesweeper. The act of figuring out what is beneath a square or tile based on what else is around said square is inextricably linked with the addictive Windows game.

Gemsweeper, eschewing Minesweeper‘s randomness, opts on a regular basis to have the placement of the gems on any given level create a picture. While some of the pictures are cute, they also provide an added hint as to the solution for a level if one can figure out what the picture is supposed to be. Whether or not this is intended is unclear, but it does provide aid on some of the more difficult levels.
Along the way the player is provided with a guide of sorts, Professor McGuffog. McGuffog provides some hints on technique when the player makes mistakes, and often gives bad jokes at the end of each level based on the picture.

As the player completes levels and racks up points, they will improve their “treasure hunter rank,” which seems to have no effect on the proceedings, save satisfaction in the knowledge that one is progressing.

In addition to the main quest mode of the game (the rebuilding of El Dorado), there is also an arcade mode, which has the player solve an ever-shifting puzzle in order to uncover enough gems within the time limit to move on to the next level. It is only in arcade mode that the time limit ever becomes a real factor, and that is only at high levels. Consequently, the arcade mode, unlike quest mode, has a sense of endless pointlessness to it.

The graphics, while not cutting edge, need not be – they are bright, pretty and more than suffice in attracting the player. The music, too, is nice and airy. In fact, everything about the game practically screams, “oh come on, just play one more level… it’ll only take a minute.”

As with many a puzzle game, Gemsweeper keeps everything nice, simple and low-key. It never quite gets complicated or intricate enough in its levels to be truly difficult, and while that may distress some, it will keep the casual player involved for a longer period.

Gemsweeper does not have an ESRB rating, but contains no violence, graphic depictions of any sort, or foul language.

Four stars out of five.