Jewel Master Collection (a.k.a. Jewel Master Double Pack)
DS | Storm City Games / Cerasus Media | 1 Player | Out Now
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22nd November 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
Gem Quest: 4 Elements, turned out surprisingly positive. Likely pleased with their successes in this sector of puzzle gaming, the publishers saw worth in re-releasing two of their past games into one collection. But after trying the game for yourself, you may have a different idea about the worth of the overall package.
Jewel Master Collection includes two already-released DS games in one package -- namely, Jewel Master Egypt and Jewel Master: Cradle of Athena. In Jewel Master Egypt, the Egyptian theme prevails while Cradle of Athena is centered around Greek mythology. From the get-go, I already preferred the style in these two games than the whole wizard motif featured in 4 Elements, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Both feature two game modes: Play and Relax. The latter is more or less a Stage Select option where you can choose from one of the available stages and replay them in a quickplay fashion. There are 100 levels in all, but they won't be accessible until you first clear them in Play mode.
The game itself follows basic match-three principles where your method of progression is to link items of three or more together, done simply by using the stylus to swap the placement of two tiles. The items you'll see on the playing field are representative of different resources, including jewelry, food products, gold, and water. In each puzzle, you'll find dark blue tiles that you need to concentrate your focus on. Clearing all of these away using the aforementioned linking method will reveal a special artifact somewhere on the board. From there, you must continue using links to bring the item to the bottom of the column it rests in so it can fall off the playing field and conclude the level.
Jewel Master series has a side civilization-building aspect to them where accumulated gold can go towards new upgrades to your village, slowly developing it into a populated civilization. In addition, new additions to your growing empire will usually require a quota of materials and even a certain level of nourishment (presumably to feed the workers that will be involved in the building projects). There's a hierarchy system referred to as Dynasties, where you can only purchase three different landmarks at any given time. This usually requires you to clear a minimum of five stages before you have all the pre-requisites asked of you. As the quota for the gold and resources increases, you'll be spending more time working on your current dynasty than on some of the earlier phases.
While all that is going on, you'll also be collecting blueprint fragments in preparation for a major build -- usually a statue or a monument of some kind. Once you've completed the blueprint, a slider puzzle will initialize as you try to put everything in its place. But since you're given the option to skip it, I don't really understand the point of doing it. And besides, I think it would have made more sense if the blueprint puzzles took on the form of jigsaw puzzles instead.
As your dynasty expands, new resources will get added to the board for a bit more variety. As well, some of the tiles will undergo changes, appearing in chains or a light blue colour that require multiple links to clear. Bonus items will get added over time and appear along the right-hand side of the Touch Screen, including one that allows you to clear a group of tiles with one tap. These do require some energy build-up before they can be used again, though, done simply by continuing to make links.
Core elements aside, periodically event-themed stages will come into view where you need to protect your village from locusts or fight against a raging Cyclops or Minotaur. In both cases, you'll need to eliminate a certain number of the themed tiles before time expires. Sometimes you might be cutting it a bit close, but usually these bonus levels won't present too much trouble. Other than that, there's not much else that needs to be said about the gameplay.
While the civilization-building component to Jewel Master Collection does help move things along and gives you an overall goal to work towards, this doesn't counter against any kind of monotony setting in. In fact, unless you consider yourself a serious fan of these kinds of games, I'd be surprised if someone didn't feel even a little bit bored with the package after just 20 minutes. The Dynasty system may appear to offer a sense of depth to an otherwise shallow game, but Jewel Master Collection is still a pretty basic game by most standards with little to offer players in the way of true enjoyment.
As far as presentation goes, I don't think the game looks that great. In fact, the animations, appearance of the text in certain areas and just the whole feel of the game give the impression that it was made years ago -- which it was. Just as an example of that, the flour bags in Jewel Master Egypt looked like jellyfish against the blue tiles. This isn't to say the game is outdated, but its age does show for sure. As for the music, I have nothing to say, really. It's all generic and repetitive stuff that's not worth talking about.
Even if you're getting two games in one here, I still feel that mediocrity dominates, to the point that I think it was a mistake for the developers to describe the package the way they did. "Two Great Games"? Yeah, I don't think so. Don't get me wrong, it's a decent idea to try and make the match-three component less run-of-the-mill with the whole empire-building aspect, but unfortunately this doesn't shield the game from becoming boring rather quickly. Unless you're really, really into match-three games, I see no reason to recommend this when there are better titles of this kind available.
16/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Simple match-three formula, tiles on the board represent resources, slowly build a civilization through the Dynasty system, bonus items
Presentation 6/10 - Doesn't look very impressive, visuals and animations unwittingly reveal the age of both games, standard audio
Enjoyment 2/5 - Civilization-building aspect doesn't prevent the game from becoming boring rather quick, a basic game with little fun to offer
Extra Content 2/5 - Features two games in one package, can replay cleared levels, not really worth buying when there are much better alternatives available
Equivalent to a score of 53% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System