It's heartening to see the 2D platformer genre alive and kicking on iOS, and going through so many different phases to boot.
We've had the traditional phase, the speed-run phase, and the hard-as-nails-action phase.
Now we seem to be going through a slightly deeper, more free-flowing and explorative phase with the likes of Mines of Mars and Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville (no, really!) impressing in recent months.
Traps n' Gemstones is the latest of these, and it's also arguably the best.Whipped into shape
You play the part of a little Indiana Jones-a-like, complete with fedora and (pretty quickly) snake-vanquishing whip, as he embarks on an expedition to explore a vast pyramid.
This sets the scene for a neat Metroidvania platform adventure. Every room you discover contains a spatial puzzle, while simultaneously forming part of a larger interlocking challenge.
The goal is to collect relics. These have been stashed away in blue chests in relatively inaccessible corners of the pyramid. By acquiring these, as well as a steadily growing range of tools (a gun, a weight, a torch etc.), you'll unlock more and more of the game.
It's a time-honoured means of driving you through such a spread-out world, but it's still a rare enough system on iOS to make it feel fresh.Spelunkin' donuts
Donut Games deserves plenty of praise for the thoughtful tweaks and adjustments it's made for the mobile format.
For example, while Traps n' Gemstones's levels are spread out and interconnected at multiple points, each section is themed and colour-coded, so you'll quickly be able to ascertain where you are in relation to where you saw that earlier chest or item.
The developer has also minimised frustrating back-tracking by creating a single lift that operates at the centre of the pyramid, offering quick access to each main area.Pyramid scheme
Also clever is the game's scoring system, which gives a cursory nod to the punishing insta-death mechanics of similar console games, but without the frustration of having to start again from scratch.
Rather, your score accumulates for as long as you're alive. The moment you come a cropper (one hit kills here), you simply start from the beginning of that room, but with your score reset to zero.
You can completely ignore this score element if you like, and simply dive into the adventure. Or, you can tip-toe forward, striving to stay alive as long as possible, and try to top the brilliantly implemented friends high-score list.Rich rewards
Traps n' Gemstones's clean presentation simultaneously evokes old boys-own adventure comics and retro platformers of the '90s, yet looks quite unlike anything else on iOS.
It also makes the game eminently playable, even on a 4-inch iPhone - a task that's also assisted by some well calibrated virtual controls and a suitably sedate pace.
Thanks to these thoughtful concessions, Traps n' Gemstones is the perfect entry point to this kind of more ambitious platform-adventure.
Even if you're more accustomed to speed runs or blasting anything that can't be jumped over, this is a game that can draw you in with its gently layered mysteries.
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