148Apps Network Post
Developer: NCsoft
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.3
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Good things happen when a well-established game company like NCsoft, best known for MMORPGs, develops something new just for iOS. Their first title for the App Store, Gem Keeper, is a jewel of an example.

A genre departure for them, Gem Keeper is a closed-track tower defense game. One that is fresh, visually appealing and unusually action-packed.

Critter-monsters come down the track with one mission: get the gems and get back out. The player is the gem keeper charged with keeping the shiny rocks safe from the 22 different types of enemies, or recapturing them from the bling bandits while they try to make good their escape.

As in all TD games, the object is to place towers – a total of 14 different ones – in strategic locations to blast the gem-starved enemies from their goal.

Players earn virtual currency for kills allowing for the purchase of other towers, tower upgrades, and a few limited-use power ups like traps. Unlike most tower defense games, however, once the weapons are placed it’s not time to sit back and watch.

In Gem Keepers towers can be placed in fixed locations, but each of the 30 levels comes with tracks too. The towers placed on rails can then be moved quickly during the enemy runs for maximum damage potential. Instead of just waiting and upgrading, players are always part of the action.

The gameplay is novel and requires a gamer’s attention be on the screen at all times, so it’s a big plus that looking at Gem Keepers is almost as appealing as playing. The graphics are crisp, clean and remarkably detailed. Each of the three distinct environments – forest, ice and mine – is lush and fully realized.

The gem thieves grow progressively harder to kill, and the game has three difficulty levels – packing it with both replay value and varying skill-level challenges.

With a theme that will appeal to all ages and learning curve that’s so incremental it’s hardly noticeable there is not a lot to criticize. The only thing I don’t like is that “special bombs,” which obliterate an entire track full of trouble can be purchased in-app. But, maybe I’m just a purist. Or cheap.

In any event, Gem Keepers lacks any game network integration, so there are no leader boards where big spenders can outshine those who master the game the hard way. But achievements would be a welcome addition.

For a newcomer to tower defense games, Gem Keepers is the perfect place to start. For those who already love the genre, Gem Keepers is a no-brainer. Get it.

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