Gold Fever Review – More like Lukewarm

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When I first saw screens of Gold Fever from TikGames, I thought At last! Another Match-3 game for the PSP. Even though that is one of the most popular genres of recent times, there are virtually none on the PSP (just PuzzleQuest, 7 Wonders, and Vempire). As a fan of them, I find this a very depressing state of affairs. As I started playing Gold Fever, though, I realized that it’s not the typical Match-3 game.

You have a grid full of coins, the size of the grid depends on the level. The twist here is that you are not matching just the color of the coins, but rather the side or face of the coin. Instead of swapping a coin with its neighbor (like in most Match-3 games), you make moves by flipping over a coin. Your goal is still to match three, though they don’t have to be a vertical or horizontal line, it’s just three or more contiguous squares, an L shape is okay.

To pass each level, you must use every square in the grid as a match at least once before time is up. Once it’s used, the color of the background of the square changes (it’s meant to represent you mining gold). As you progress, the layout of the coins changes and there are more color coins to deal. In between levels, you learn old mining trivia about the location you are in.

Could come in handy if you are ever on Jeopardy!

Could come in handy if you are ever on Jeopardy!

The main trickiness in the game is that each board is shaped irregularly. So it can be very difficult to get the squares that are isolated by the odd shape of the board, especially once you have to deal with four different coin colors. This is further aggravated by there being a few pieces that aren’t coins, but gold ingots. These will give you an extra life (that is a try at a given board) if they fall through to the bottom, but if they are on top of one of the isolated squares, this means you can’t really win the level without resorting to a power-up.

You can earn special power-ups (two that remove coins, one that adds time), but at least in my playing, only about one per level. So it can be helpful, but ultimately not that useful because the rate of earning them is so low. Except for that one last square you just can’t get.

While I like Match-3 games, for me at least, a little goes along way. I like playing a level or two, then quitting and doing something else. That works here, it saves between levels, so you can come back and do that. The best Match-3 games will change up the gameplay every so often to keep things fresh, still keeping the match-3 bit, but changing the goal of the level. This doesn’t – it pretty much is the same all through the game, just adding more colors and changing the layout.

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Graphically it’s pretty simple. The coins are animated, and occasionally you can drop a gold bar into a mine cart below. But that’s pretty much it. Strangely, as TikGames is apparently based in California, at the beginning of every level you are told to “Ready…Set…Dig” by someone with a very thick Australian accent (or so it sounded like to me).

The main problem I had is the very small size of the coins. The PSP has a fairly large screen for a handheld, but it’s still a handheld. After fifteen minutes of playing I was rubbing my eyes. Then again, I am approaching (if not actually in) middle age. But if anything, that simply makes me part of the target audience for a game like this.

There is a lot of wasted space on the edges, and I think a re-design utilizing more of the screen for the playing field could have helped this issue a lot. But instead, they pretty much just shrunk the screen from the PC version.

The gameplay is solid, if somewhat dated by today’s Match-3 standards. I found it fun at first, but once there were four different color coins it became a chore more than anything else. I had hopes for this game, but I was let down. If you are desperate for a Match-3 game, you might give it a look, but even in the PSP’s limited catalog of such, there are better options.

Score: 5.5/10

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