Posted on October 18, 2007,

Gaming Today Reviews Jewel Craft

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I’m by no means an expert on casual games. I’m a hardcore Halo guy. But, I still enjoy being able to kick back on my laptop and play some simple, straightforward games from time to time, and Jewel Craft is looking to be just that type of game. With a story mode that could potentially take you a long time to complete (depending greatly on just how good you are at the game) and a faster-paced challenge mode, Jewel Craft isn’t a bad package on paper.

Of course, that doesn’t matter if the core gameplay is no fun. Jewel Craft’s take on the traditional “match three” Bejeweled style gameplay has you rotating stones in any of four directions so that you can match three or more of the same type of gem. It’s very easy to get the hang of, and the early levels are far from anything resembling a challenge. You’ll need to create a certain number of the different kinds of gems, as well as different sizes of gems to complete various items for royalty, such as a staff or earrings.

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The story is sorely uninteresting, so I won’t bore you with details. But, basically, you play the role of a young boy who becomes a jeweler’s apprentice and his journey from novice to master.

The game becomes surprisingly difficult rather quickly as the levels no longer are comprised of a large area filled with stones. Instead, sections are separated from one another, leaving you with fewer stones to work with for any given gem you need to create. It makes it tricky when you need six-plus gems to come together to make what you need, but that’s where the various power-ups come in.

Obviously not every gem you create can fit into the piece you’re working on. (Which, I should mention, you have no control over. You simply flip the stones and the created gems automatically distribute themselves.) Extras fly into the bottom of the screen and slowly fill up the various power-ups, such as flipping the whole board so that all of the stones will flip, and providing you with a few turns to freely flip the stones without them creating a gem.

Ultimately, the story mode is a really slow-paced affair, because the more difficult levels require you to plan ahead so that no particular square runs out of stones, which can really handicap you. Challenge mode is much faster-paced, as the right side of the screen will fill up with random gems and you need to prevent them from clearing the screen by creating identical gems on the left side. It’s a constant rush, and I found it to be far more entertaining than the story mode, which gets pretty stale after a few hours.

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Graphically, the game does what it has to, with flashy effects when you create gems and the like. The “cutscenes” in between levels, which are the only way narrative is ever conveyed through the game, are just still shots with text. Nothing wow-inducing, but it’s also something you don’t get from playing Bejeweled in your browser. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.

The music is also pretty standard fare, with a sort of Egyptian-esque soundtrack of ambient tunes. Not unlike the story mode, the music also gets fairly stale after a while. It’s not a detriment to the game by any means, but it might be worth playing some of your own music while you play.

Ultimately, your desire to play Jewel Craft will come down to just how much you like the match three style of game, since that’s what it boils down to. The graphics and sound serve their role well enough, and there’s enough to keep you occupied for quite some time, while the attempt at a story is probably the game’s worst feature. Still, it’s a competent title that’s worth your time if, and only if, you’re a fan of this style of game.

Presentation: 7 The whole Egyptian vibe fits well with the game, but it isn’t going to blow you away.

Graphics: 7 Again, they get the job done without leaving too much to be desired.

Sound: 6.5 For the first hour or two, the soundtrack is pleasant enough, but after you cross the five hour marker, you’ll certainly be reaching for your own music.

Gameplay: 7.5 The game plays well and does a good job of adding an extra hurdle to the standard Bejeweled formula.

Replay Value: 7.5 Provided you enjoy the game, there’s plenty of challenging levels in the story mode, and challenge mode is a great time waster.

Overall: 7.5 A well-done game that is suiting for any fan looking for something with more depth than Bejeweled. Whether you want a slower or faster-paced game, Jewel Craft has got something for you.

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