A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gems With Friends is a match-three puzzle game in the tradition of Bejeweled or Zynga's own Matching With Friends. Players -- who must have a Facebook or Games With Friends account -- match three or more colored tiles, matching as many same-numbered gems as possible before their time runs out. You can play against random opponents, and messaging between two players is unmoderated. You can also play against Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or people in your contacts. The game comes in both a free and paid version. The paid version is ad free (although it does promote Zynga's own games).
What's it about?
Players must match three similar gems to earn points -- and those gems must have the same number as at least two other nearby gems. Each match earns you points and a new gem (i.e. matching a line of "1" gems earns you a "2" gem when they combine, which appears in the spot where you placed the last matching gem and is worth more points). The higher the number on the gem, the more points you earn for making a match. Bonus gems can extend chains, freeze time, or offer other bonuses. Whoever earns the most points after three rounds is the winner.
Is it any good?
Gems With Friends is certainly a fun game -- but its release shows Zynga may be turning into a victim of its own success. The game is easy to grasp, well-paced, and fun -- but it's sometimes hard to find someone to play against. So many people are focused on other "With Friends" games that they're ignoring this one. (Even finding a random opponent takes a little while.)
There's certainly variety, though -- no game board is ever the same. And if you prefer a game that forces quick thinking, the clever mechanic of reducing your bonus if you don't make matches fast enough is an intriguing one. It's not perfect, but it's ultimately a fun social game.
Talk to your kids about ...
Encourage kids to play with their real-life friends rather than use random matchups. And join the fun by playing against your teen as well.