Gemstone Keeper has brought back some very early memories for me. My very first gaming console was an Atari 2600 when I was very young. We didn’t have it for long; my parents weren’t impressed and it was swiftly swapped for a Sega Master System. However, the memories of 6-year-old me, playing a rogue-like that I cannot recall the name of now, formed part of my earliest gaming memories. These memories were severely jogged this week as I played the upcoming release from UK based indie developer Gamepopper.
The first thing any player of Gemstone Keeper will note is the ASCII art style and graphics. As someone who cut their teeth in gaming with graphics of a similar ilk, I couldn’t help but be swayed by its yesteryear charm. You control a sentient ‘@’ symbol, who along with a slew of NPC @s control a base of operations complete with a shop for upgrades and a museum to display the jewels you find on your journey to the depths below. To accompany the graphics is an excellent soundtrack of chiptunes and 8-bit tracks by seasoned games composer Vincent Rubinetti.
The gameplay itself is a fairly straightforward affair. You enter the caverns below your base and hunt for minerals and precious stones to haul back, which are in turn sold. From this point, you are encouraged to spend your money on upgrading or buying items to help you in your further ventures back into the caverns. There is an array of different weapons, that offer their own distinct advantages, as well as different ammunition. Returning back into the cavern will cost you half of your remaining cash, so it is always best to stock up and upgrade before marching on.
Gemstone Keeper: Keeping It Real
The caverns themselves are filled with hostile creatures, from an angry set of number 6s or 9s (I couldn’t tell!) through to more complex creatures made up of ASCII art such as spiders, snakes and, delve deep enough, bosses. To keep you on your toes there are various distinct areas available, which included an ice area that proved especially slippy and an area that removed the user interface with a mechanic known as ‘mist’. Whilst the demo itself only offered one game mode, more recent updates from the developer have shown the game will release with modes such as ‘Boss Rush’ and ‘Score Attack’.
Gemstone Keeper is one of those games, that won’t trap you in hours and hours of a marathon gameplay session but will provide enough fun and distraction in shorter bursts. Coming home from work or school, you might quickly fire this up and have a small delve into the caverns, although don’t be surprised when 10 minutes soon becomes an hour.
In summary, Gemstone Keeper offers an enjoyable and fun experience. The game itself comes from a demo created for use in a university thesis, and it is always interesting to see full games spring from demos like this. This is why game jams are a great breeding ground for innovation and creativity. Unfortunately, there was no price point available at the time of printing, but I would expect the game to retail at a modest price point on Steam. Or if you’d rather try before you buy, there is a more recent (and thus more feature complete) demo than the one I played, available over on itch.io free of charge.