Gusto Games, the team behind titles such as Ultimate iSpy and John Daly’s Prostroke Golf, has teamed up with O-Games to bring its PC puzzle effort Jewel Time Deluxe over to the Nintendo DS in an attempt to tap into the lucrative market. After taking a look at recent excellent releases, in the form of City Interactive’s Jewels of the Ages and Avanquest UK’s Jewel Link Chronicles: Legend of Athena, Cubed3 checks to see if this can match them in terms of quality.
On the outside, Jewel Time Deluxe is an extremely impressive prospect, with six different game modes to play through, with a few familiar styles mixed in with a couple of intriguing fresh ideas. As with other entries into the genre, the basic premise is that coloured tiles of the same colour must be matched up in groups of three or more, working horizontally or vertically. Jewel Time Deluxe also points out that bonuses can be amassed for forming T- or L-shapes when working with the limitation of switching only two adjacent blocks (this is no Puzzle League where blocks can be moved all over to form matches). These bonuses normally lead to special coloured tiles appearing with images emblazoned upon them, which when cleared trigger a special attack, for example clearing an entire row and column, removing all of the same colour from around the playing field, or blasting away within a small radius.
Outside of the standard modes, such as Arcade, Classic or Free Play, where stages are cleared one-by-one, with increasing difficulty and a timer that counts down more quickly with each level, Jewel Time Deluxe thrives on the Isolation and Gravity Twist themes. Whilst Arcade is a stage-by-stage affair, Time Attack sees the player pitted against the clock, attempting to obtain a new high score in the one minute period allotted. Classic is purely about playing until either you become bored or there are no moves available on the board anymore. Free Play is aimed at casual gamers and complete newcomers, with no increasing complexity or timers; nothing that could cause stress to rookies.
Isolation is a case of trying to reach Level 10 in the shortest time possible, clearing tiles as normal, yet being extremely mindful of the vortexes dotted around the board, since if clearing tiles results in two vortexes touching, everything is sucked into the resultant black hole and ‘game over’ is the order of the day. As for Gravity Twist, whilst similar to Arcade, it has gravity that shifts in various directions, meaning that there is a random factor thrown in that can throw pre-planners totally off-guard. Isolation and Gravity Twist are great examples of how to take an existing concept and freshen it up. Unfortunately, though, Jewel Time Deluxe still lacks some of the draw of other games released under the ‘Match-3’ label, partially due to its lacklustre visuals, dated music and extremely unenthusiastic voice acting, but also because there is a distinct lack of tension or challenge throughout. Everything can be accessed by even the newest person to gaming, without any major increase in difficulty for veterans, meaning that despite all the modes, Jewel Time Deluxe could well leave many gamers wanting.
There is, however, also a set of Game Awards that can be collected by achieving certain goals during general play. Some are plain and simple ones, such as ‘Made your first Match 4,’ yet others test endurance, with ‘Created 2,000 Match 3s’ and ‘Destroyed 20 Vortexes in Isolation mode’ being two of the longer-haul badges to claim. With only ten to unlock, though, and nothing more than a sense of satisfaction in doing so, they do not add much to the overall longevity.
Mixed in with the classic gameplay modes found in all Match-3 games, there are some intriguing twists on the standard play that help to freshen the game up.
Extremely bland visuals, with no characterisation included, merely a scrolling stars set against a black void for the background and garishly coloured tiles on the board.
Basic synthesiser tunes reminiscent of the 1980s plays constantly, sometimes proving quite pleasing, whilst other times growing quite annoying.
Fans of Match-3 games will get great value from Jewel Time Deluxe and its six gameplay modes. Unfortunately there is no online for score comparisons, nor are there any multiplayer modes included.
Jewel Time Deluxe has made a successful transition from PC to Nintendo DS, yet its general lack of extra polish it fades in comparison to other releases in the genre. With six modes to play through, Gusto Games’ Match-3 puzzle effort is definitely one that will give fans of this style enough to sink their teeth into.