Jewel Master: Cradle of Egypt 2
DS | Rising Star Games / Cerasus Media | 1 Player | Out Now (North America)
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27th November 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
In a nutshell, Cradle of Egypt 2 follows the same treatment that Cradle of Rome got recently by means of a spiffier sequel, making relatively minor expansions over the original game in ways that are perfectly in line with other recent entries, both graphically and in terms of gameplay. The formula is still the same as ever: use your stylus to switch placement of objects on a grid to make a match of three or more of the same type. The game's format involves going through time periods, constructing key landmarks for your growing civilization using resources and money accrued from puzzle completion and making specific match-ups. Conquering a time period with the right amount of tools will increase your rank, from Peasant to Pharaoh. Electing to build something will trigger a slider puzzle, but if you're like me and find these to be tedious, then you'll be pleased to know this can, as per the norm, be skipped after a minute or so.
The system isn't haphazard and follows a pretty traditional progression in the way of levels getting a bit harder each time, with bonuses being gradually made available to give you a bit more freedom in how you go about clearing the board of coloured tiles. However, the methods used to accomplish this aren't at all bold in their differences (both compared to the puzzle layouts that come before and after it, and with other games in the series), nor are they always for the best. My main reason for saying this is the fact that some of the puzzle layouts can frustrate players due to the reliance on luck and random generation to advance, particularly when you must clear locked tiles to open up the next portion of the stage. Both before and even with the introduction of bonuses, this is still felt, and it can serve as a real downer for anyone who many not have patience to deal with such a variable, even it isn't one that surfaces on a consistent basis.
I feel like a broken record in saying this each time, but if you've never experienced any of the titles belonging to this franchise or the last one you did play came out years ago, then you might find its system to be quite likeable despite its repetition and lack of movement beyond the occasional cosmetic change. For everyone else, though, Cradle of Egypt 2 remains static, and because of this, it's hard to suggest to anyone who considers themselves a fan of the genre to pick this up, seeing as the process has practically been run dry. Furthermore, if you already own a copy of the more recent entries, there is really nothing (new) to see here, and that lack of change gives rise to monotonous circumstances and causes the attachment of the building aspect to fade into the background -- more than it already is.
For added perspective, try putting yourself in the shoes of a teacher for a second. How would you react to a cocky student who continues to ride the "good enough for a pass" train and eccentrically believes no one is going to tell them any different? Though match-three addicts may disagree, it bothers me that this series has stubbornly refused to take positive steps to move to a new space and slingshot itself forward, and is instead getting by just through swapping overlapping themes and elements without actually reworking them. Fans who are aware of or have played recent outings will especially find this has resulted in a terrible case of déjà vu, one that is difficult to overlook.
While the sequel definitely looks better than the original in almost all respects, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. This is especially true because of the comparisons that one can so readily make to other recent entries. I found that the look, while bearing many similarities to, say, Cradle of Persia, isn't always up to par. Somewhat crude animations are displayed on the top screen from time to time, such as moving lines in a stream of water or a burning fire in the center of a fireplace. As I suggested, these aren't very appealing and I definitely expect better, all things considered, but at least there's a good responsiveness to be observed with the tiles. There's not much to say about the music, as the nature of it is pretty standard for the Egyptian theme, so I'll leave it at that.
I'm a bit stuck, because I'm feeling more and more that this series is in need of a face-lift gameplay-wise, and the worst part about it is that the complacency is serving to cripple the (non-existent) growth from within. Personally, I'm not satisfied with the continued lack of development this series seems bent on ignoring, but I still won't let that get in the way of acknowledging that some will still have a good time with this. Doesn't mean I'll go so far as to recommend it, though, because in light of the above, Cradle of Egypt 2 isn't well-catered to existing fans and its gameplay presents nothing that hasn't already been executed before in more recent entries. Truth be told, it's getting harder and harder to rationalize in favor of these games, and the fact that this one in particular has been touted as "the most exciting addition" to the franchise only cements my feelings. Cradle of Egypt 2 is one more in a line of recent efforts that demonstrate that the developers, for whatever reason, aren't interested in making worthwhile tweaks to a system that frankly is in need of a change.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Formula is more or less identical with relatively few changes, series as a whole is getting to be stale and in need of a change
Presentation 6/10 - Definitely an improvement over the original, basic animations that could be better, music is standard for the theme
Enjoyment 3/5 - Some layouts can lead to frustration by the way they're designed, will only be fun if you're fresh to the genre or series
Extra Content 2/5 - Same features as always, puzzles can be replayed for medals, will last hours if you put in the time but most will give up
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System