California Gold Rush
| California Gold Rush

A fellow wittier than I would easily be able to draw a crafty comparison between California Gold Rush's focus on a search for 'all that glitters', and our own daily sift through gaming's wheat and chaff.

That same chap or chapess would then neatly suggest that Gold Rush itself is as precious as that most glorious of metals, but not one you're going to have to dig all too deep to unearth. Clever, eh?

It's a pertinent point, however. California Gold Rush, which essentially plays out like a solo game of battleships, is all about digging for gold, hunting out the bling with no more aid than a slight twinkle in your eye. But it's this very hunt itself that proves to be full of riches. It might be a cliché, but Gold Rush really does shine.

Taking on the role of Mandy - a young fresh lass having her first crack at mining - you take your pitchfork, explosives and various other tools underground to dig for gold. This basically means digging yourself through a grid of earth and rock filled squares.

You’re able to swipe your fork at the squares both left and right, as well as the one beneath your feet, either using the thumb pad or the number keys.

With much of a the gold buried deep beneath the surface, tunnelling your own way through the mud is your only way to it, making large portions of Gold Rush play almost like a level editor - matching up tunnels, reinforcing them with wood to hold the earth back, digging deeper and deeper until you've created your own little underground city.

And if you think I'm over-egging the amount of digging involved, then think again. With just the odd sparkle on the screen signifying where the gold is (described as Mandy's 'gold sense'), you fly partially blind, digging down to investigate and see more of the map.

Problem is, just what you'll meet on the way is anyone's guess. The only squares visible are those in the vicinity of where you've already been, and you'll often head the most logical route to a twinkle only to encounter a wall of immovable rock in the way.

Some can be blasted (you can buy charges with your gold from a shop on the surface that take out squares either vertically or horizontally), but others can't be touched, meaning you'll often have to alter your route drastically.

This would be no problem if there wasn't a cap on the number of moves you can make. Just like the amount of gold you need to mine changes from map to map, so does the amount of energy at your disposal.

It's referred to as Mandy's ‘stamina’, and you have a set amount to expend. Every step you take depletes your reserves of vim.

It almost acts like a clock and helps to turn California Gold Rush into a battle between wanting to come home rich and wanting to come home full stop. Only the most skilled, or lucky, will be able to sap the ground dry of enough gold to win the top award before running out of energy, as Gold Rush is made of stern stuff.

Throw in bats that haunt your every move and stranded miners scrambling for a rescue, and you've got a game as packed as it is challenging.

Much like the process of gold digging itself, Gold Rush gives you a taste of the good stuff yet, quite brilliantly, never quite gives you enough. It leaves you hungry for more, greedy for another nugget, desperate for one more dig to pick up even more gold in even fewer moves.

True to its name, the rush really does take hold with Digital Chocolate's glinting, gilded classic.

California Gold Rush

Part puzzler, part adventure, California Gold Rush might look cute and cuddly but it's engaging enough not to need to dig deep to uncover its golden moments