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A would-be gem that unravels too soon, November 22, 2022
You are Royal Councilor for the King. The Queen’s birthday is next week, and you have been tasked with finding the perfect jadeite stone. The game has it all. Glamour. Travel, freedom to journey to different places in the world on a whim with a platinum credit card and a personal jet. Every resource is at your disposal to ensure that the Queen receives the desired gem. And, on top of that, a deadline which requires the player to use their time strategically. Great concept. But the game’s implementation sours the experience.
The game begins in your lush, personal office where the first chunk of gameplay focuses on researching clues on jadeite using resources found in the Royal Manor. It is Monday, and you are expected to find the perfect jadeite gem by Sunday. The second portion of gameplay involves traveling from country to country to track down some jadeite based on leads from your research. It is possible to travel and return to the Manor if you wish. (What is jadeite? Jadeite is a rare mineral, typically characterized with a light green colour. Like jade, but more precious.)
First half: Manor
Besides researching the whereabouts of jadeite, an interesting objective is to find different forms of jadeite. For example, there is a type of cabbage called jadeite cabbage. With this knowledge you can ask the chef to prepare the dish to be served later. Finding these themes were fun, though poorly implemented. I will discuss the (Spoiler - click to show) gown puzzle later.
Second half: Jet-set travel
Travel! The player goes from country to country to buy gems and then use those gems to lower the asking price when you buy more expensive ones. You alternate between buying gems and making offers. And traveling in luxury, of course. It follows a pattern: buy a gem and use it as leverage for the next gem you purchase. That way, you only juggle a few gems at a time. This mechanic simplifies the gameplay and gives players the chance to leisurely take in the geography as they travel across the planet. An adventure for someone preferring a single, streamlined gameplay over technical puzzles. If only it worked. Unfortunately, this game is overrun by bugs.
Now, before you flee, understand that this is a game worth exploring for its novel ideas. However, I do not recommend pressuring yourself to complete it because you probably never will. I ran into several walls that halted progress. Of course, there may be things in the gameplay that I did not notice. I could be wrong. If anyone is reading this and thinking, “challenge accepted,” good for you. By all means, play it. After running around on the face of the Earth, I would love to complete this game.
Bugs & issues
When I first started the game, I marveled at how descriptive everything was at the Manor. The room descriptions featured lavish scenery, and your surroundings glow with the decadence of your position as the Queen’s Royal Councilor. It reminded me of the phrase, “you can look but don’t touch.” If you try to “touch” (interact) with the game, the shiny image unravels. Talking to characters, examining items, and testing verbs reveal some holes in the game’s fabric.
The game is extremely buggy, both cosmetically and mechanically. Some of the most important functions fall apart. At best, it feels awkward. At worst, it prevents you from making progress. Early in the game there were tasks I was unable to complete, but these were relatively non-vital enough to be ignored. The first sign of trouble was about (Spoiler - click to show) preparing the Queen’s gown.
Marina, the head fashion designer, asks you to retrieve a gown from the Queen’s closet, and gives you a key to unlock it. When you collect the gown the game says, "Take it downstairs to the stylist and she will deliver it to the King," the stylist referring to Mariana. But then you run into this issue:
>ask Mariana about gown
Try giving the gown to the Stylist.
>give gown to stylist
Mariana doesn't seem interested.
I found no way of fulfilling this task. Nor can you also ask her about jadeite more than once. She delivers her line and becomes unresponsive. All I have is this gown that no one cares about. But oh well, I suppose I could just skip this and jump to the gemstone hunting part.
The crippling part of this game by far is the failure of the offer/give command. As I mentioned earlier, the whole point of the gem seller encounters is to offer a gemstone to lower the asking price for the gemstone on sale. Out of all the characters in this game, NONE are responsive to the player trying to give them things. The player is helpless. The only choice they have is to buy it outright, which is bad because the game insists that you will need to conserve money to buy the jadeite later.
To use an example, (Spoiler - click to show) you can buy a Red Beryl Emerald from the seller in the Wah Wah Mountains. This is what the exchange looks like:
>ask Louis about red beryl emerald
I might have a small sample. It is worth ten grand per carat. Are you a serious gem collector?
You are becoming somewhat of a gem collector. Try giving Louis Potosi the Black Opal to lower the asking price.
>give black opal to Louis
Louis Potosi doesn't seem interested.
Louis was not interested in anything. I have a gut feeling that this was not because I was offering him the wrong gem. I offered him every gem, but no change. None of the characters in the game respond to the player’s attempts to engage in buying and selling which is an issue because this is the backbone of the gameplay.
Cosmetically, the game is unpolished. Sparseness combined with surface bugs. Poor formatting and awkward character dialog with messages like, “(southwest then east)” tacked on at the end. Though trivial in comparison to the rest of the game, these areas still stick out. A sad part is that you can hardly examine or interact with items in the intriguingly described locations. I did like the interactivity of Tsimbazaza Zoo.
If you are interested in fudging the gameplay, here is a tip (major spoiler tip) you can try when you leave the Manor: (Spoiler - click to show) If you go east from the limo circuit, you end up in Hong Kong where you can attend a diamond auction. After the auction, you can buy the jadeite. Is this a bug, or is the rest of gameplay optional? Why bother running around buying and bargaining (or at least trying to bargain) with people across several continents when you can skip to the main event? The exit to Hong Kong is not listed in the limo circuit’s room description. I stumbled across this by accident while randomly testing different directions. Anyway, yes, you can buy the jadeite. But there is a bug that prevents you from finishing the game. I have not found a way around it, but someone else might.
Story + Characters
The story is not deep but is an eye-catching premise. Buying and selling gemstones while traveling the world. It is a creative idea with some fun vibes. Even has the tones of a much more well-behaved and courteous version of Prima Varicella from the game Varicella. The protagonist in Jadeite for the Queen is male, but the game decides to stick with minimal details.
If you are lucky, you may find NPCs (besides Dante, but even he cuts it close) who will respond to more than two prompts. NPCs are like props. They add detail to the scenery and carry out one function, usually related to a transaction. I was not expecting them to engage the player in thoughtful discussion, but conversation is extremely shallow.
I think the game also tries to incorporate some geographical history and culture into its destinations. I like this idea, though it is frosting compared to having cohesive bug-free gameplay. The portrayal of some characters seemed a bit contrived, maybe stereotypical. Further development would make it more engaging. Regardless, the author has a strong vision that shines through.
First things first, I have a feeling that this game was never tested. Testing goes a long way, and it desperately needs it. I want to cut the author some slack since it appears to be their first game, but right now it is borderline unplayable.
I am giving the game an extra star because of the creative concept and because it is interesting to play. It may be a chaotic mess as you try to make progress, but you cannot deny the some of it holds your attention for at least a short while. It captures the flair for travel and mixes it with glamour while also adding a reasonable deadline to keep the player on their toes. If the author were to refine and hone these elements, I think the game would gain popularity. Jadeite for the Queen may be incredibly unpolished but with some work I am confident that it has the potential to be a lovely gem.