By Chris Picone, 26 April 2023
Having grown up with Atari's Breakout and Sega's Columns, Gematombe definitely caught my eye. I would love to see some subtle changes made to further emphasise the abilities and strategies but it's still a fast-paced, fun experience.
Super bright and colourful, making it appear fun, appealing, and also easy to differentiate when the game gets a bit hectic. Also features little mini "stories" for each character, showing some neat cutscenes with some cute cartoony characters and some surprisingly detailed background art. It's a good looking rooster!
The core gameplay is simple enough; you can move your paddle across the bottom of the screen to catch the ball - and it does catch, not bounce, which then lets you aim your shot. If you miss the catch, the game adds another layer of blocks to your screen. The ball then bounces around, knocking the blocks. Unfortunately, this is about as far as the tutorial goes. Gematombe also includes a few more complex rules around hitting colour combinations of blocks; there are also armoured blocks, special function blocks, and each character even comes with their own special ability, but you're left to try to work these out on your own. Not easy to do while under the pressure of the game, which can move quite quickly. Otherwise, Gematombe's rather kid-friendly and features the nice accessibility feature of drawing the arc your ball will take, which makes it easy to line up a nice shot. However, the flip side to this is that you might be inclined to spend a little too long lining up the perfect shot, which would actually give your opponent the edge. Accuracy helps but speed is key. Gematombe also differs from most paddle games in that there are two win conditions: You can clear your gems first, but you can also "crush" your opponent by hitting certain conditions that somehow add more blocks to their screen. I think the game might still have some balance issues or else could benefit from a stronger tutorial as I found it very difficult to deliberately adopt either strategy, but it's still a fun, competitive experience.
If you're a fan of paddle & ball games (Pong, Breakout, etc.), you'll probably enjoy Gematombe. It's very modern and looks great, accessible and easy to play, and the characters and special abilities are a nice touch. The solo mode's okay but couch VS mode's where the real fun's at so bring a friend.