The Golden Pearl is by The Mighty Palm, a game that’s very much in the vein of Link’s Awakening and the Zelda Oracle games. Your character, a blue-haired caped fellow by the default name of Arty, decides to go look for the powerful wish-granting Golden Pearl. For some reason. To gain access to it, however, Arty must clear through the temples of fire, water and earth and get their rings. And so, he sets out to look for them.
…That’s pretty much the general plot, actually. The story’s mainly an excuse plot, at least until near the end. How’s the setting? Is this place a mythical dream land? Honestly, it probably doesn’t matter, let’s go exploring.
The general gameplay is a sort of distilled version of the Game Boy Zelda games, with a larger emphasis on exploration and puzzles. A good chunk of the map’s open to you and the items required to access the rest are easy enough to get. There are plenty of small quests from the game’s quirky NPCs, a lot of them offering Power Pommes (the game’s Heart Container equivalent), so there’s a good amount of stuff to do. You can gun straight for the dungeons, but you’ll be missing out on a bunch of content that easily puts the game over the contest’s one hour limit.
There are enemies in the game’s overworld, but for the most part, you can’t properly fight them. Thus, confrontations typically have you, the guy decked with unlimited bombs and arrows, running away from a boar. That said, there are boss battles that you can properly fight, which were kinda hit-or-miss for me. Watching the boss of the earth temple repeatedly get stuck certainly showed me that having proper combat throughout the game would feel kinda off. A later boss also throws out a whole bunch of projectiles during the fight, which ended up slowing my game down, which I feel also could have been a concern if combat was prevalent through the game. Other bosses do try to work within the engine’s limitations. My favorite’s definitely the one for the water temple, mainly because it does something I didn’t expect and gives a creative use for one of your tools.
As for the game’s puzzles, they’re pretty easy to get, especially if you’re a veteran of these Zelda-type games. If you’re looking for some real challenging puzzles, forget about it. But if you just want to have a good time, they’re welcoming and won’t be a frustration.
The game is buggy, which you can expect from a jam game, especially one that defies the engine’s limitations. Now, focusing on the game’s main goals, you aren’t likely to run into bugs, at least, ones that would obstruct you. A lot of the concerning bugs that I did run into were relegated to the game’s side areas, the most frustrating of which being a transfer bug taking me out of a cave immediately after I entered it and pretty much rendering it inaccessible.
As for the presentation of the game, it’s real solid, its art staying true to the Game Boy games it’s inspired by. The music is also pretty nice and I love the contrast of between the adventurous overworld music and the oppressive, slower dungeon stuff. The track for the final dungeon’s probably my favorite, carrying a nice sense of finality and hyping you up for the end.
Also, the opening animations with the title screen and a nice pixel version of IGMC’s mascot are real good and a nice thing to open the game with.
The Golden Pearl is a nice game and it does try its best to follow the spirits of the Game Boy Zelda games. Exploration and puzzles were great, while the fighting that wasn’t non-existent’s hit-or-miss. Some bugs might make going for 100% completion frustrating (and impossible), but I generally had a good time with The Golden Pearl and I think it’s a nice contender for IGMC.