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Gematombe – Review

Puzzle games have been around since the dark ages and it didn’t take long for single-screen titles like puzzle bobble (bust-a-move) and eventually titles like Tetris to offer competitive vs modes where you’d compete against others, but one puzzle genre I can’t recall offering a vs mode was the classic brick-breaker like Breakout and Arkanoid.

Gematombe gives us exactly that, the 2-screen competitive matchups we’re used to seeing in titles like Bust-a-move 2, Tetris Worlds and more recently the Puzzle Quest franchise, but with the classic gameplay of breaking blocks. The more blocks you clear on your screen the more blocks and obstacles appear for your opponent with the aim to clear your screen or “crush” your opponent to claim the victory.

Gematombe follows the journey of Pandora and a collection of Daemons, there’s 6 characters, each with their own backstory and special attack that will make things more difficulty for your opponent.

From the main menu, you’ve got a brief tutorial and configuration options, followed by the choice between single or versus, if you’ve got a friend nearby (local split-screen play only) you can quickly choose a character and jump into a 1v1 matchup, but most of the gameplay in Gematombe sits inside the single player menu.

There are three modes in total, with Practice letting you get to grips with the game without opponents, Survivor mode testing your endurance against and endless list of opponents and finally arcade where you have to defeat each daemon in a relatively short campaign.

Once you’ve selected your character, you’ll start on the journey as you battle everyone else (and a mirror image on yourself), there’s dialogue between each battle and a unique background, but gameplay remains the same as you aim to clear your screen of blocks by bouncing a ball around similar to titles like Breakout/Arkanoid.

Clearing multiple blocks quickly adds more to your opponent’s screen and longer combos will trigger your character’s ability, my personal favourites where with Ania the Sorrow, a lonely daemon who made everyone near her cry – her journey was seeking for isolation and her ability to earn a solidifier would harden opponents gems meaning they’d need multiple hits to clear. Another fun ability belonged to Khaos the chaos, who also serves as the final boss with the frustrating ability to change the colour of opponent’s gems.

Each character, background and their storyline are well presented in a cutesy cartoon style with well-drawn, and detailed 2d images, but on the default normal mode, it’s only going to take you about 10-15 minutes to battle through all six opponents and complete the arcade mode.

Thankfully there’s different dialogue for each character, and every daemon’s journey is unique, but you’re still only looking at about 90 minutes to complete each character’s storyline, there’s a little extra longevity with survival mode, but you’re likely to have the full 1000 Gamerscore in little more than two hours.

It’s still a very playable game, but it comes with its own shortcomings in delivery mostly with the pace of the game.

Maybe I’ve played a few too many block-breaker games, from the original Breakout and Arkanoid to various iterations and more recent twists of the genre in titles like Shatter: Remastered Deluxe which we reviewed late last year. But it was always about accuracy with speed adding to the difficulty, but in Gematombe, the only difficulty is thrown up by the opposition as the speed is so low you’ve got plenty of time to decide where your next shot is going to be.

You’ll also notice the blocks are quite large, and rather than keeping your ball active, you’ll instead catch it after each shot to fire it back into play each time.

The overall flight of the ball is equally quite slow, meaning if you’ve got an accurate shot, you won’t find many struggles on normal mode and likely to still win most matches on the hard setting, down on easy there’s a lack of balance as the only thing that change sis your opponent’s ability to hit a crucial shot, with things feeling pretty normal until they’re down to a handful of blocks and then they suddenly forget how to aim.

I really would have liked to see a speed mode, where rather than catching the ball, you had a traditional paddle to keep the ball in play and adding a speed option (that doubled the speed of the ball) could have literally quadrupled the gameplay on offer.
As it stands 2 hours feels pretty short return for the $15 asking price.
Overall Gematombe isn’t a bad game, with some decent presentation but it feels a little too slow to play and there’s just not enough content to leave it highly recommended.


Review by Lee Palmer



Overall Gematombe isn’t a bad game, with some decent presentation but it feels a little too slow to play and there’s just not enough content to leave it highly recommended.


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