Jewel Keepers: Easter Island
WiiWare | Nordcurrent | 1 Player | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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27th April 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
To start things off, the game uses a generic, throwaway story to try and tie things together. Basically, a professor of sorts has taken it upon himself to explore the depths of this mysterious Easter Island as he has reason to believe there is some sort of danger present. Completing a level in the game will award you with a piece of a circular jigsaw puzzle that contains the key to unlocking the secrets of Easter Island. For every quarter of the circle you complete, the story will advance by way of photographs within a travel log. There's really nothing to be gained on a personal level for getting through the story and it's definitely something you'll just skip over as you're playing.
The controls in this game are pretty easy to use. You use the Wii Remote's pointer to move a simple cursor around the board, keeping an eye out for possible matches. Once found, you can press and hold the A Button then drag the piece in the direction of the other shape you wish to swap with. Making a match will clear affected stones off the game board, leaving behind a golden colour to indicate those spaces have been activated. In order to clear a level, you'll need to activate all the squares on the board which can actually prove to be more tricky than you might think.
In many cases, the game board will contain certain elements that add more of a strategic element to the gameplay. Take, for example, the armored cells that are locked in place. Before these can even be accessed, you'll need activate all other spaces on the game board. Because of the way things work out, you'll sometimes even have empty spaces with no stones in place. You could look at this as something that will set you back, but this also serves as a means of adding strategy and control into the mix. Since you have the ability to move stones into these squares, if you think ahead, you can actually plan things out to work in your favor. These little touches may seem inconsequential but really they do make a big difference in the long haul, keeping you thinking about how to use these sorts of oddities to your advantage.
Rather than just getting the job done, I was happy to see Nordcurrent included a bunch of gimmicks to keep the formula from becoming too dull too quickly. The game refers to these special items as Magic Stones. The items that appear the most are timed bombs where some stones directly beside them will disappear from the board when an explostion occurs. There's also a white rod that can clear an entire row of stones, and a randomizer-type item that will eliminate all the stones of the same colour once it's been selected. Overall, there's a good level of variety in the gimmicks that appear as you progress in the game, and these are really what make the game fun to play. And again, they add a greater strategic element than what's seen in other games belonging to this sub-genre.
Jewel Keepers: Easter Island is presented with some pleasing visuals. The graphics are nice and colourful with moving backgrounds serving as a backdrop for the game board in the foreground. Even just besides the fact that they look good, I really appreciated the fact that the backgrounds were not static and lifeless. Also, whenever you make an incorrect swap, a character will quickly make their way onto the screen, telling you that the move isn't doable.
I thought the music component was also good for the most part. The background music gradually transitions from one track to another on a semi-regular basis, and although looping does occur, the music wasn't as annoying as I predicted.
As far as content is concerned, $5 gets you more than 40 levels in total but little else beyond that. Some may find satisfaction in going back to cleared levels later on and trying to beat their high scores in Free Play mode, but I can't see the vast majority feeling motivated enough to do that. So this is really the kind of game that's suited for short play sessions. One other big thing I noticed was the lack of multiplayer. Had this game included a multiplayer mode or two, this would have been an even stronger sell. As is, the only support that exists for multiple players is the ability to set up three different profiles, so that was obviously a missed opportunity there. For those that are looking for this kind of experience, Big Kahuna Party may actually serve you better.
Other games have certainly dulled the fun factor in games like this, but Jewel Keepers is still an admirable effort overall. Despite the lack of multiplayer, the well-chosen gimmicks along with the overall play structure make Jewel Keepers: Easter Island a decent choice when you're in the mood for a match-three fix.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Easy controls, gimmicks add a strategic element to the mix, game board presents opportunity to control stone placement in your favor
Presentation 7/10 - Nice colourful visuals and moving backgrounds, even despite the semi-regular looping the stage the music was pretty good
Enjoyment 3/5 - Serves its purpose as a suitable match-three fix, the included gimmicks prevent the game from becoming too dull
Extra Content 4/5 - Lots of stages, Free Play mode, high scores aren't motivating, no multiplayer, played in short bursts you will get your money's worth
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)