Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome DS
Published by: Rising Star Games
Developed by: Cerasus.media
Release Date: Out Now
Thanks to the likes of Bejeweled and its sequels, the 'match 3' puzzle games have become fantastically popular over the last few years. The DS already has several games of this type such as Zoo Keeper and Puzzle Quest and it has to be said that they can become fiendishly addictive and difficult to put down. Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome is another 'match 3' puzzle that has a few unique twists of its own.
In Cradle of Rome the idea is to build up your very own legendary Roman city. You'll do this by earning resources in each of the levels you play. For instance if you match up three wood tiles you'll earn fifteen wood (five per tile) and if you complete the level, all of the wood you've earned during the level will be added to your total resources. When you've got the required amounts of food, resources and gold you can purchase buildings to put in your city. These buildings provide additional resources (different tiles appear on the levels) and bonus items that are important as they can help you to get you through the more difficult levels. There are five epochs to develop your city through and each epoch has a number of buildings that need to be built.
The basics of Cradle of Rome are just the same as in Bejeweled. You'll swap adjacent tiles to allow you to match up three or more tiles which have the same symbol on them and doing so will cause these matching tiles to disappear. There are some key differences though. Not all of the levels are squares or rectangular in shape. On any given board the goal is get rid of the blue marble tiles which initially is very easy but as the game progress it becomes a real challenge. You'll need to match up the tiles that go across the blue marble tiles in order to remove them. Once you've removed all of the blue marble tiles you've completed that level. Some blue marble tiles are chained and you'll have to remove the chain first before you can get rid of the tile. To do this you'll have to match the tile in a similar fashion but because the tile in question is chained you cannot slide the item that is on that tile in the usual way.
Cradle of Rome isn't just about clearing the blue marble tiles. You'll want to obtain gold, resources and bonus tools at every opportunity (because you have to build the buildings to improve your city). Should you match four or five identical tiles in a row you'll gain increased amounts of that particular resource. The levels are timed, the water level in the pitcher shows you approximately how much time you have left, and if you finish the levels with plenty of time to spare you'll earn a time bonus which replenishes the resources you desperately need.
As enjoyable as Cradle of Rome can be there are some control issues with the game. The game doesn't allow you to use the directional pad or buttons to move the tiles. This wouldn't be a problem if the touch screen controls worked perfectly but that's not always the case. You can either tap the first tile and then tap the second tile for them to change places or you can tap and drag the first tile to the location of the second tile. I found that the game doesn't always recognise what you want to do. Using the first method I found it doesn't always recognise your tap on the screen if you don't tap the screen firmly enough and using the second method it occasionally tried to move different tiles to what I had selected. These problems were not too common and didn't spoil the game in anyway but I feel the touch screen controls could have been more precise, particularly in a game where there's time restrictions.
The presentation of Cradle of Rome is fairly simplistic which isn't really surprising since we are essentially dealing with a 2D puzzle game. The view of your town is quite basic and it begins to look increasingly cluttered as you develop it. You could also argue that the icons on the tiles look a little fuzzy but it's to be expected given how many tiles are displayed on screen and how low the resolution of the DS screen is. Deaf gamers won't have any problems with the game as there is no speech in the game and all information is given in text or through the use of numbers or icons. The game has a tutorial which is completely in text and the same information is given in the game manual.
If you are into the 'match 3' puzzles such as Bejeweled and Puzzle Quest there's a good chance that Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome will appeal. Personally, I wouldn't say it's as good as Puzzle Quest, which on the whole had a better presentation, storyline and was generally more interesting, and it's not quite a straightforward as either of the Bejeweled games but it does have enough unique qualities to make it interesting enough. If you're a fan of the aforementioned games then Cradle of Rome is certainly worth a look.