Bottom Line: Challenging, mildly addictive physics puzzler that offers great family fun for ages 8+.
Diamonds are a girl's best friend, except when they keep the girl up way past her bedtime and prevent her son from completing his homework because they are part of a hard to put down iOS game.
My Diamonds by developer bad monkee is unapologetically a game. It has its own backstory where players learn through a pictorial introduction that an alien planet exploded into beautifully faceted pieces which then wound up going down a chimney and landing in Grandma's house. Play is similar in many respects to perennial favorites Where's My Water and Cut the Rope which may account for it stealing my son's attention for most of the night. The object of the game is to help a surviving alien collect the diamonds from the granny's Garden, Kitchen and Garage. It sounds a bit silly until you remember that Kryptonite is from Superman's destroyed home so there is precedent for crystalline planet remnants falling to earth.
The My Diamonds menu offers a lot of options including skipping the intro. It has Game Center connectivity and the ability to export scores to other devices. That means if you unlock 10 levels on the iPad, you can pick up on level 11 on an iPhone. I wish all apps worked like that. Music, which is an upbeat instrumental, has an on/off switch, and there is an ultra useful help setting that previews where the diamonds will fall, so adjustments can be made if necessary. This screen also has tiny Facebook and Twitter icons and a link to something called AppMe which lets you share your app picks with friends. Thankfully the game is good enough that kids will likely ignore these distractions.
Play on My Diamonds is pretty straight forward for experienced gamers, and the first two levels in each location are essentially tutorials for newbies like me. My 10 year old was able to unlock the first nine levels in about 20 minutes. The game begins in the Garden. Diamonds flow from a faucet at the top of the screen, and the object of the game is to divert them so they land in the alien's power-pack bag at the bottom of the screen. Various horizontal and vertical walls block the path of the diamonds. Each level has movable objects which help move the diamonds around the obstacles and into the bag. Sometimes the objects are as simple as a two by four board; other times they may include a conveyor belt, fan or spinning wheel.
As is common with games in this genre, users can play through each level to unlock the next or unlock them all with a $.99 in-app purchase. Each of the three locations has 20 levels and there are bonus levels which can be unlocked, so whether you choose to play through or cheat with the in-app, it's a lot of entertainment for the money. Kids (or their neophyte parents) may wish to use the help setting the first time through and then reset the game and start over without the hints. The levels get increasingly difficult with bombs, bad blue diamonds and bees thrown into the mix.
What impressed me with My Diamonds, and the reason I allowed my son to neglect his homework, was the degree of strategy it involves. Many of the moves are not obvious and take trial and error to see how to get the diamonds where they belong. Sometimes only half the diamonds make it into the alien's bag and other times all 40 are successfully collected for a perfect game. I let my son have first pass at each level, and then if he didn't get it, I'd work with him to find a better course. We haven't done something like this in a while so I really enjoyed seeing how he figured out a problem. And let's face it, I got to show-off a time or two and be the cool mom for once.
One item I would change about the app is that green checkmarks appear when items are placed, even if they are in the wrong place, and that's a recipe for confusion.
I do have to point out that a screenshot in the iTunes description says the game contains three "kick ass" bonus levels. The description may be apt, but that language probably isn't the best choice for a game often compared to one made by Disney. The game itself doesn't have any bad words unless the little alien's grunts and squeaks count.
Overall, I was impressed with the wide variety of contraptions incorporated into the environments and how each level brought something new. The game worked just as well on an iPod Touch as on the iPad which was a nice change of pace. My Diamonds requires some serious thinking at times so it's a better choice for kids' entertainment than many of the more mindless connect three games, racing apps or shoot em ups. Be forewarned that midnight may be staring you in the face before you put it down.
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Jill Goodman believes diamonds should always be plural and preceded by my. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.