With so many stellar puzzle games on DS, like Puzzle Quest, Tetris DS, and even the Atlus published Puyo Pop, it is hard to recommend games like Jewel Master Egypt. With a slightly new take on the familiar connect-three style of gameplay, this new title from Storm City Games will easily get overshadowed by the heavy hitters.
Using only stylus control, the player is burdened with linking together three similar shapes. Once these shapes are connected, they disappear and cause all the shapes above them to fill in their spot, endlessly. The goal of the game is not to send garbage pieces to an opponent or to earn a high score, but rather, clear out the blue section of each game board by joining 3-of-a-kind pieces within it. Once this blue section has been cleared, a scarab will randomly appear somewhere on the screen. The player must then lead this scarab to the bottom of the screen before time runs out.
Unlike Tetris or Dr. Mario, each stage in Jewel Master Egypt is a different shape instead the usual rectangle/tube-shaped board. Within these awkwardly shaped stage are tiles with a blue background, and they must be cleared with a combo to finish each stage before the timer runs out. Unfortunately, some stages are a lot more difficult than others simply because of their awkward shape. Trying to clear that final blue square in the lower corner of the fish shaped level for example, relies much more on luck than skill. Some levels are so strangely shaped, they will easily frustrate, due to cheap level design, rather than entertain.
The game’s all-stylus control is also inaccurate. Even after adjusting the stylus settings on the DS’ start up screen I still had difficulty touching the tiles of my choosing. For some reason, the registration is off causing the player to grab the wrong tiles. Luckily, there is no penalty for moving a piece in a wrong direction; only time is wasted. D-pad control should have been an option.
Speaking of time, the game’s countdown clock is the player’s biggest threat. Visualized by a depleting bar at the side of the screen, the player must complete each level before time runs out. But because there are so many tiles on screen, it is easy to lose track of time as the player will be more worried about where to connect the next set of pieces. But this countdown timer is also linked into the game’s audio department. For some reason, the game’s default settings maxes out the game’s music, but almost silences the game’s sound effects. This game’s “hey, time is almost running out” sound effect is very difficult to hear and thus is ineffective at warning the player.
Once a stage is completed, the game takes the pieces that you cleared and “builds” something with them. The question that I have to ask about this feature is simply, why? Unlike Puzzle Quest, or even the N64’s New Tetris, clearing pieces get tallied up into a pool where the player has the option to build new structures or bonuses to make the gameplay more exciting. Here in Jewel Master Egypt, the game automatically “builds” a structure for no apparent reason with no foreseeable bonus. And I put the words “builds” in quotes because the game will sometimes build something organic like a camel. I mean, how can you build a camel? This interesting feat is also accompanied by the typical hammering sound effect too, as if you just created a real life camel with a hammer and nails. This entire portion of the game simply doesn’t make sense and should have been eliminated altogether.
With no multiplayer options and an extremely weak tutorial system, it isn’t hard to see that Jewel Master Egypt was created with a tight budget. But with flawed game design, frustrating level structure, and inaccurate style control, DS owners are much better off looking elsewhere for their puzzle gaming fix.
Not As Good As: Most other Connect-3 puzzlers
Better Than: Eating broken glass
Also Try: Bejeweled
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