Developer: Gameloft
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Puzzle & Dragons clones are more common than mildew in a dungeon. Now Gameloft is hitching its cart to this popular beast with Dungeon Gems, a puzzle/battle/card-collecting game for mobile.

Dungeon Gems adds a couple of interesting new mechanics to the now well-used Puzzle & Dragons formula. It also has some very pretty graphics and impressive animations. The fancy visuals come at a price, however: Dungeon Gems is slower-paced than its inspiration. A single round also costs a good deal of the player’s allotted stamina, making for long waits between play sessions.

Dungeon Gems takes place in a world that’s threaded with massive dungeons carved out by dragons years ago. These caverns are full of treasure just waiting for a new owner – but demons lurk below as well. Worse, the dragons appear to be making a comeback, and they’re not very happy about sharing their hordes.

dungeongems_04dungeongems_05As players move through these dungeons, they fight waves of monsters. Victory brings gold, as well as new hero cards for the player to build up or use as fodder to level up other cards. Each exploration session is topped off with a boss battle.

Like many games of its ilk, attacking baddies in Dungeon Gems requires players to match-up elemental gems and power up elemental-themed heroes. The more gems in a chain, the stronger the relevant warrior’s attack. However, Dungeon Gems lets players link up more than one element in a single attack, which can make for some truly devastating blows. Ability points (AP) are necessary to pull off these “cross-breed” attacks, requiring players to make careful, conservative moves.

Dungeon Gems‘ battle system is an interesting variation on the established formula. It’s not enough to balance out its other problems, though. Stamina systems aren’t uncommon in puzzle/battle games, but Dungeon Gems depletes a pretty significant chunk of stamina whenever the player delves into the deep. Players gain more stamina as they level-up, but the gain doesn’t match the rate of depletion – which, incidentally, goes up as the player progresses to harder dungeons.

dungeongems_03dungeongems_01Moreover, Dungeon Gems‘ fancy graphics are great to ogle at first, but provide a sobering reminder about why other similar games opt for static images. Dungeon Gems‘ battles load slowly, and its enemy roster is repetitive. It lacks the quick, snappy feel of other titles in the genre.

Dungeon Gems is worth a try, but some of the tricks meant to help it stand out from its competition backfire. Certain genre fans may appreciate the busty wenches and sword-toting barbarians that exist in the place of the usual cute anime dragons and wizards, though.

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