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Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome 2 - 3DS Review

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Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome 2

3DS | Rising Star Games / 
Cerasus Media | 1 Player | Out Now
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31st August 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

Now more than four titles in, the Jewel Master series is faced with a bit of dilemma -- one the developers have evidently turned a blind eye to. It's become increasingly apparent that if you've played one entry, it's as if you've played 'em all. Not the greatest compliment, especially in light of the fact that the mechanics don't aim very high. I suppose when you're still hitting every time (as shown by the fact that the games are still selling), why would you be inclined to stray away from that? Still, I'm a bit bummed by the fact that despite this being a follow-up to an earlier release, Cradle of Rome 2's execution gives off an impression of cowardice. This may be the first time the series has headed to the 3DS, but don't let that fool you into thinking anything major has changed. Neither for the better or for the worse, Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome 2 resists change in matters both big and small, and in so doing, extremely limits itself to a crowd that could find better fixes elsewhere.

    As you could already tell, Cradle of Rome 2 is all about grouping jewels and other items together on a virtual grid to open up locked compartments in a match-three-style of gameplay. On the 3D Screen, you have a still depiction of scenery traditional to the setting, a timer in the form of a stone water jug, as well as totals for the different usable materials of food, gold, and building supplies (more on that in a few). The game is to be played using the stylus, so obviously the Touch Screen is where all the gameplay takes place. Off to the side of the grid is a vertical banner of locked power-ups that become accessible as you advance further in the game. For the ones that are available, you can gradually build to them by matching what's indicated on the icon, and, using a drag and drop system, subsequently use these to either destroy pesky tiles for which there seems to be no match or eliminate a wider field.

    Coupled with this main mechanic is the civilization-building component, which sees the categorization and collection of resources as going towards the construction of landmarks, serving to keep you abreast with the overall task of bringing a lost empire to its former state of thriving origins. Each time period (or Epoch) presents with it four different landmarks that you can work towards, bringing with them citizens and workers that will produce such effects as faster-charged bonuses. Starting off small and working your way up, you'll move from farms and houses to stadiums and other lawfully-sanctioned monuments that reflect the nation's strength and military might. Not that you'll ever have a chance or need to prove that, of course. Presumably that's where the "master" aspect comes in, but the only thing you'll really have to hone in on is the dedication to see the game through in the face of all the repetition.

You do have new elements coming in at a fairly steady pace such as skulls that will set you back a few steps, as well as ice blocks that require vertical matches to be cleared. However, these in no way offset the routine that's carried throughout, which for some will be extremely tedious and not at all a worthwhile use of time. Had it not been for the fact that this particular iteration has been labelled as a sequel, I would not have expected much more from the game, considering the series has shown little sign of alteration. It's for that reason that players who have previously engaged in a previous entry will be unable to shake the feeling that they've played this in the past. That said, it is still possible to lose yourself a bit in the gameplay, even if it may not reach to a point where you have trouble pulling yourself away from it.

    The way I see it, even if they weren't going to go all-out with formula changes, there are still areas that could have seen improvements. I'll begin by pointing out that some of the layouts themselves aren't always designed especially well in their luck-based nature. For instance, having a set of stairs in the corner of a level can be a nightmare with the clock ticking down, as you hope that somehow two more items will appear so you can make a dent in the locked tiles found in this area. As per the norm, corner pieces usually have this issue, and the items do rectify this a tad. Because this is a fairly ordinary thing to deal with, normally the game wouldn't be at fault. But here's where things change a little: Because you're only given one type of power-up to use per level (even though you can carry fully-charged power-ups over), it's not like you suddenly can rely less on strategy and just hope that the next set of pieces down the line will be the ones you need to clear that final tile. Issues still exist and it's that obstruction towards progress that can be especially frustrating, simply because you're unable to control it as much as you should be able to.

    Furthermore, because even the most mild presence of frustration can easily push the less motivated away from the game entirely, I really feel that resources should have carried over even when time expires. To me, that would've been the smart thing to do. Otherwise players just feel like everything they did was in vain, and when this takes place for little fault of your own, it's very discouraging. One other thing to point out rests with the slider puzzles. These mini-games appear as a means of closing off strings of puzzle layouts, but in all honesty, I was so thankful you could just -- as per usual with this series -- wade out a time restriction for a few seconds and just press the Skip button.

In terms of presentation, despite touting 3D quite a bit, the game doesn't use it all that effectively. There's a very thin expansion of depth seen during gameplay with the available backgrounds, and when viewing the landmarks up close, you can tell there has been some work done to make them a bit more appealing to look at than what could be possible on the DS. Even still, it's not impressive in the slightest. Also, the choice of music for this game isn't very consistent, I felt, as it at times sounds more connected to Irish culture than what could be linked to the game's overall theme. But it's pretty lukewarm stuff either way.

    As with all other games in this series, there is a surplus of puzzles to clear, and even after you've seen everything -- to which I'd have no choice but to call you crazy -- you can always head into Tourney Mode to re-attempt levels with a new time restriction. But realistically, I can't see the vast majority actually going through all that effort. It's far more likely to see someone give up after a few hours. You won't have to think very hard about what this will mean for you on a personal level, either. Interestingly enough, one of the set pieces used for the game's HUD is a statue of a winged child, who sits with one hand on his face as he looks straight at the water timer with a look of slight disinterest. It's as if he were put there against his will and is now just waiting for it to be over so he can get on with his life. Sounds about right to me.

    With nothing to look forward to either in the immediate present or the future with this series, Cradle of Rome 2 is too content with playing it safe, knowing full well that it needs some shaking up at this point. With derivative gameplay that could only appeal to those who have yet to experience the series, I can only suggest that interested persons select the theme that appeals most to their tastes and run with that. If that ends up not being Rome, then so be it.

17/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 6/10 - Same formula with little-to-no changes, elements gradually introduced as per usual, a few design issues that should have been ironed out
Presentation 6/10 - Functional but not at all impressive, music is a tad inconsistent at times, 3D usage isn't all that effective, visuals are a bit appealing
Enjoyment 3/5 - Still possible to have fun with the game if you're a fan of the genre, others will find it very tedious if not bothered by the lack of change
Extra Content 2/5 - Plenty of levels to plow through but it's doubtful you'll want to go through them all, Tourney Mode adds new guidelines, achievements

Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome 2
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