Clear all the gems from the board as quickly as possible. You can remove a gem in one shot by dropping it two or more spaces. A gem falling only one space will crack but not break; drop it another space or more to clear it. If any piece is pushed above the top of the board, the game is over!
A Goal Counter at the very top of the game screen shows how many Gems are left on the board.
Note that the tournaments are broken into two difficulty sets, "Easy" and "Hard". The levels in the Hard set tend to have more complicated puzzles, and often require careful use of the special pieces. The gameplay, however, is the same: the time limit, the speed at which the pieces are added, etc. It is recommended that players stay with the Easy set until they become familiar with ZenGems and are ready to step up the challenge!
Use the mouse to move the shooter left or right. Clicking the left mouse button will shoot the current piece onto the board, as indicated by the highlighted column that extends from the shooter. After shooting a piece, the next piece in the queue moves onto the shooter. You can use the right mouse button to swap the piece currently in the shooter with the next in the queue.
If any piece is pushed over the top of the game board, your game is over. In many levels, pieces are added to the bottom of the board, pushing existing pieces up, so be careful! You must keep making matches in order to remove pieces and stay out of danger.
ZenGems is game of strategy: in order to clear the gems, you'll have to figure out how to use the pieces both in the queue and on the game board to cause the gems to fall and break open. The primary method to do so is to make matches. If a move causes 3 or more colored pieces to line up in any direction except diagonally, then a match is made and the pieces are removed from the board.
The pieces involved in the match do not all have to be in a line: as long as you can trace a path either horizontally or vertically to a piece of the same color, then that piece will be involved in the match.
Pusher Balls are one of the most important pieces in the game, and are the key to mastering ZenGems! Pusher Balls are like normal colored Balls, but with either left or right arrows on them. When you shoot a Pusher Ball, it does the following:
- Pushes the target piece into the adjacent column in the direction of the arrow, if that target can be pushed.
- The Pusher Ball then changes into a regular Ball when the push is complete.
- Creates color matches, if possible.
When the Pusher Ball lands on a piece it can push, it tries to shove that piece over in the direction of the arrow. Unless an adjacent Blocker piece prevents it, then that pushed piece will move into the adjacent column, pushing up the pieces that were there and slipping underneath them. If, however, the pieces in the adjacent column are blocked above by a Blocker piece, then the push will attempt to continue into the next column over.
BE CAREFUL: Dropping a Pusher Ball might lift an adjacent column up and push a piece right over the top, which will end your game!
Pusher Balls are often used in ZenGems to move needed pieces into position. For example, one puzzle might require you to drop a red Pusher Ball onto a green Ball, pushing that Ball into two other green Balls, creating a match. You can also drop them straight on top of a Gem, pushing the Gem over and causing it to fall.
Once you get the hang of Pusher Balls and understand how they work, you're well on your way to mastering ZenGems.
Cages hold Balls or Gems inside them, trapping the piece. If the circular window in the center of the Cage shows a color, then it holds a Ball of that color; if it's shiny, a gem is trapped inside. You can break a cage and free the trapped piece in a number of ways:
- A Fireball will break open a cage when it explodes (see the Fireball for more information).
- An Energy Ball will free trapped pieces that are the same color as the Energy Ball. It will not break open Cages that hold Gems, however.
- Make a match adjacent to the Cage. If the trapped piece is a Gem, then any valid match adjacent to the Cage will break it. For example, if you match three red Balls where at least one of them is touching the Cage, the Cage will break and free the Gem. If the Cage holds a Ball, then you must make a color match that involves the trapped Ball.
Move the shooter left or right with the Mouse.
Shoot a piece onto the board with the Left Mouse Button.
Swap the piece in the shooter with the next in the queue with the Right Mouse Button.
Press the M key to mute the music.
Alternatively, you can use the keyboard to control the game:
Shooter left/right: Left and Right arrow keys
Shoot piece: Down arrow or space bar
Swap piece: Up arrow
It is important to remember that you only receive points for cracking or destroying Gems. Matches alone won't give you any points, so don't waste time making matches that aren't helping you with your goal.
Different levels in ZenGems have different layouts, including the number and positions of Gems. In order to keep things fair, the scoring potential for every level is the same. The scoring works like this:
The total value of all the Gems on the board is 5,000 points, divided equally among all the Gems. This means that if there are 5 Gems at the start of a level, each of those Gems is worth 1,000 points. If there were 10, then each would be worth 500 points.
You get ½ the points for a Gem when you crack it, and the other ½ when you destroy it. If you destroy a Gem in one move, without cracking it first, you get the full value.
Example: if a level starts with 5 Gems, and you crack one, you'll get 500 points; when you finish that Gem off, you'll get the other 500 points. If you then destroy a second Gem in one move you'll get 1,000 points.
There's also a Speed Bonus added when you destroy a Gem, so the faster you break the Gems, the more points you'll get.
This works somewhat like the base points, in that there's a pool of 3,000 points divided equally among all the Gems. For example, if there were 5 Gems at the start of the game, then each Gem would have a maximum possible speed bonus of 600 points.
The maximum speed bonus for each Gem is then multiplied times the percentage of game time remaining. This means that the earlier you destroy a Gem, the more points you'll get.
Example: if there are 5 Gems at the start of the game, and you destroy a Gem exactly half-way through, then you'll receive: 0.5 * (3000 / 5) = 300 speed bonus points. If you only had a quarter of the game time remaining, you'd instead receive: 0.25 * (3000 / 5) = 150 speed bonus points.
There are many levels in ZenGems, and each one plays differently. Due to the scoring mechanics, all of them have the same scoring potential, but some of them might have more gems than others, or might take longer to finish. In order to keep things fair, every player in any particular tournament will play the same level. The name of the level is displayed at the start of each game.
For any one level, all the important pieces will be the same for all players, such as the positions of gems, cages, and blockers. Certain aspects can change, such as the colors of certain Balls that fill the game board; however, these don't affect the basic solution and strategy for the level. This is to prevent a player from gaining an advantage when entering a tournament multiple times.