Gems With Friends

Zynga has a reputation for making games that…well, lack originality, so people are likely to raise eyebrows when they see its newest game, Gems With Friends, even if unfairly.

Here’s how Zynga describes the title in a press release sent to GamesBeat: “In a battle against the clock — three rounds of gameplay and two minutes per round, to be exact — Gems With Friends players combine three or more numbered gems to score points. Drag and drop pieces as fast as you can and when three or more gems of the same type are combined, they disappear to form a higher number gem where the match was made.”

Now, puzzle games like this have been around for a long time, but this reads a little like Zynga’s answer to Bejeweled, a series of games by competing publisher PopCap that also tasks players with matching different colored gems in groups of three or more. Specifically, Bejeweled Blitz is a version of the game that also features a time limit.

The grid for the pieces in Bejeweled, however, is a lot bigger than the 5×5 one shown in screenshots (like the one above) for Gems With Friends. Bejeweled also features falling blocks, while players drag and drop the gems in Zynga’s game. (It’s worth pointing out that Bejeweled itself was not the first puzzle game to feature match-the-gems gameplay; Sega’s Columns predates PopCap’s series by more than a decade.) Zynga also told GamesBeat that Gems With Friends features elements of Sudoku, a number-based puzzle game found in many newspapers. Still, it’s hard not to compare two puzzle games focused on matching colored gems as quickly as possible, especially when they both come from two competitors in the mobile field.

This the sixth installment in a series of With Friends games, including Words With Friends, Chess With Friends, and Matching With Friends (another puzzle/matching game). After a string of bad luck that includes claims of insider trading and a departing COO, Zynga could certainly use a hit.

The game is available today for Canada in the App Store, with a global release to follow “soon.”