Coming on like the bastard child of Bejewled and Chuzzle, I had high hopes for Crystal Caverns. A simple enough puzzle game, the objective is to form lines of three or more similarly coloured jewels to meet a set quota before time runs out. Unlike the majority of Bejeweled clones, however, in Crystal Caverns you're required to move the rows and columns to form matching sets. Rather than just swapping two jewels at a time, this gives the player the opportunity to take a much-needed crystal from the other side of the playing board and use it to complete a set.
It must be said that all in all, the game plays quite well and it looks very nice indeed. Unfortunately you don't have time to gawk at the pretty colours because you're playing against the clock, represented here by a lamp. Once the lamp goes out, the game is over, so you need to work quickly to reach the next level.
And I do mean quickly.
Forming sets isn't the hard part, though it can be tough to tell the difference between blue and purple crystals when you're working quickly. However, you'll soon get the hang of things, and soon you'll... hang on...
It's over? But I only just started playing! I had been playing for twenty seconds, thirty at the very most. And that's it? Game over? Game over after thirty fucking seconds? Are you kidding me!?
Who, in the name of all that is good and holy, thought thirty seconds was a fair amount of time? Who in the name of God thought the average gamer was going to spend their good time trying desperately to pick up the speed and efficiency required to play this? Now, don't get me wrong - I know very well that there are plenty of people online who race through this game. But for those of us who have jobs and girlfriends and social lives away from the computer, this just seems like a waste of time.
Fortunately, I have time to waste right now. I was not going down like that. I was going to beat this fucking game. I started again and begin throwing crystals left and right as fast as I could, usually in a blind panic whenever the timer got down to the last few seconds and this damn warning buzzer rose up to piss me off even further.
But I did it! Picture evidence that I did indeed get to Level Two! I was on a roll! It didn't even matter to me that Level Two was exactly like Level One in every conceivable way. I was doing it! I was gonna kick this bastard game's ass!
Is this someone's idea of a joke - make a really good game and then not let anyone play it? It's not that the game is hard, far from it. But when you have only twenty to thirty seconds to complete a level, it's natural that a player will start to get frustrated and make mistakes. Every time you lose, you have to start all over again, so imagine how pissed off one would be having hit their stride and reached level nine, only to screw up and lose. Would you really go back and play it all again?
The sad thing is, you probably would, because Crystal Caverns is surprisingly addictive. The desire to beat this frustrating, stupid, horrible game far outweighs anything else. You begin to hate the game, and you hate it so much that you want to defeat it on every level, to take it under your control. And though you know you'd have a lot more fun playing something else, you just can't stop. Like a trailer park wife, it beats you down and you just keep coming back, hoping that maybe this time things will be different. But they're never different. Crystal Caverns will never change, Darlene, and you've got to let it go.