Gold Fever is a title that has arrived on the DSiWare scene with very little known about it. Developer Tik Games LLC has only released one title on the DSi download service, Rocks 'N’ Rockets released late last year, and latest title Gold Fever is a puzzle game that borrows elements of various classics to tickle your puzzle fancy. Presented with a range of coloured coins, your job is to flip them over to connect three coins of the same colour, on the same side, and remove the gold backing on their tile.
The game is played exclusively with the touchscreen and you simply tap a coin to flip it over. The controls work well due to their simplicity, and you’ll be able to work as quickly or as slowly as you see fit. One potential issue on later levels is that more and more tiles are included in the area to clear, so the screen becomes very busy. Generally the touchscreen will have the necessary precision to flip the right coin, but on occasions you may hit the wrong coin and suffer as a result.
As you clear more golden tiles and coins you earn dollars, which unlock useful tools to help complete each level. The pickaxe clears the coin on a tile but does not remove the gold, the stopwatch gives you an extra 30 seconds to complete the stage and the hammer allows you to clear both the coin and the gold backing. These range in price from $200 to $300, though your accumulation of money stops at $300 and doesn’t carry over to the next level, so when you have it, spend it.
The actual gameplay options available to you won’t cause any consternation: there's only one mode. Although you can see that there are four levels of difficulty, progression is strictly linear. You start on the easiest difficulty, ‘Digger’, work through 40 levels and then you are promoted to the next difficulty level, starting back at level 1. The extra difficulty levels follow the same tile layouts, but give you less time to complete the puzzle as well as dropping grey ‘skull’ coins that make life more difficult.
This is puzzling that, for the most part, is enjoyable and at times downright compulsive. In early levels you will get away with randomly tapping tiles, but as the levels increase the game demands both planning and precision. Once you adjust to the style of the puzzles you may find that you’ll suffer from ‘just one more level’ syndrome.
Unfortunately, this game does make some mis-steps that negatively impact the overall experience. Difficulty level, for example, isn’t always consistent and fair. As you progress through the 40 levels, even in the easiest difficulty, the game increases the challenge by adding different coin types, making some tiles initially immovable, and by presenting the tiles in more complex shapes. However, when you fail a level and it is reloaded, all of the coins in the level have been placed at different, random, locations. In our play through we would often narrowly fail a level, and when it reloaded it would transpire to be much harder than the previous attempt due to coin location. This makes for frustrating periods of repeating the same level over and over again, and difficulty seemed to be based on where the coins are initially, rather than on other factors.
In addition there are no multiple profiles for players, so the only way for others to play through the game is to select ‘Replay’ in the pause menu and choose a level. When you also consider that there is no option of a competitive multiplayer mode, nor leaderboards either local or online, you could argue that this game missed some opportunities to deliver a first-class experience.
Visually the game is perfectly adequate. The overall theme of the American gold rush in the mid-19th Century is maintained consistently throughout the game. The level structure itself accommodates an over-world between levels, consisting of US States that your gold train progresses through, and this is a nice visual touch; it is unfortunate that you cannot choose different levels to play via this screen. In terms of the sound this title has a couple of twangy ol’ Wild West pieces of music in the over-world screen and the puzzle levels. Unfortunately the music in the levels themselves isn’t the better of the two, and you may need to turn to alternative sound in longer play sessions.
Overall, Gold Fever is a solid package for puzzle fans. The concept is applied well and the puzzles can be undeniably addictive at times. It's a shame that this title is so light on variety and features to mix up the experience, meaning that you may lose interest over time, and it isn’t a game that you can enjoy with others in any competitive way. However, the one player game that is here will take a long time to finish due to the number of levels and difficulties; even the most skilled puzzle solvers will be challenged. If you’re looking for a new puzzle game to keep you hooked and your eyes glued to your DSi, then this title is worth consideration.