Gem Shop
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-12-01 PC Puzzle E (Everyone) Hip Soft

I found this little game through PlayFirst's website, and didn't hesitate to try it. In a nutshell, Gem Shop is a puzzle with a little bit of management involved; in other words, two of my favorite things in one.

The game mechanics are exactly the same as Chuzzle: you slide a row or column to make matches of three or more gems of the same color. Each level you will be making a piece of jewelry for a certain number of customers (represented by a smiley), showcased in a meter on the left. By making color combos, you advance the progress of the jewelry piece while earning money, thus filling the meter.

Sometimes you will come across special pieces among the gems. Upgrade tokens add to your token total when grouped together in a combo. Cracked gems won't let you move the row or column they belong to, but can be matched with regular gems of the same kind. Lumps of coal can't be removed from the puzzle board at all (not even by matching them with other lumps of coal), so you will just have to work around them.

There are two difficulty modes to play, Casual and Expert. Though exactly the same in gameplay, the customers are a lot more difficult to please in Expert mode.

While you play (in either mode), the customer's satisfaction will gradually decrease, so you should try to complete the piece as quick as possible. Asking for a hint will considerably decrease the customer's happiness, but there are ways to add to their contentment. The obvious one is by making gem combos, but there is a quicker way.

In the shop you can buy treats for your customers. These will show at the bottom of the puzzle board, and you can use them whenever you feel like (with a simple click) to make a customer happier. Happier customers pay more for your jewelry, and the treats replenish themselves at the beginning of each level so use them as needed.

The shop is also where you purchase new designs for your jewelry store. This is crucial for level advancement, since you will need the more expensive pieces to meet the required amount of sales at the end of the day. Check your Current Sales amount often to see if you need to maker your customers happier. If you're losing money, you will probably lose the game.

The music is quite nice, composed in a classical baroque/medieval style and the sound effects are appropriate. The game is overall quite enjoyable, but I did experience some periods of lag, with a major slowdown happening when I created high combo chains.

A continue feature lets you pick up the game where you left off, but a save game option would have been perfect. Since you only have three tries (or lives), saving the shop's progress while things are going well would have made the game a lot more enjoyable. That, or allow the continue feature to let us begin from the last level we reached.

Regardless of my little quirk with the lack of a game save, Gem Shop is an original idea for combining elements of strategy into an amusing sliding puzzle game.

Gem Shop is currently available for PC, with a Mac version to be released soon.