Casual games and the people who play them have been given a lot of stick over the past few years, a somewhat new market that's receiving more attention than some gamers would like. The puzzle genre has been hit hard with wave after wave of games coming out on all platforms non-stop. What with all these games being released constantly a puzzle game needs something special in order to shine. Now bring on Jewel Master: The Cradle of Rome, a Bejeweled type game with a difference.
The game plays similarly to Bejeweled in that you are presented with a grid, objects drop into each of the boxes from above, it's your mission to line up three or more of each shape in order to make them disappear, you do this by swapping an object with the one next to it, you can only swap if the swap will result in a line being formed. In order to complete a level you must get rid of all the blue tiles by successfully swapping the objects. Some tiles will have a lock over them that require you to make a line to unlock them then make another line to get rid of them and when you're against the clock it can be a real rush especially in those last few seconds and you get what you need to complete the level.
Sound simple enough so far? Well this is where the similarities with Bejeweled end, in Jewel Master you are presented with an image of an empty field, this is to become Rome. As you play through the game you'll build Rome from the ground up in a rather clever way. In Bejeweled you simply played the game to achieve a high score, in Jewel Master however the objects you swap all play a key role in how quickly you progress through the game.
As you'll become aware rather quickly in order to build Rome you're going to need materials, the material you need is separated into three categories; Food, Resources and Money. As I said before the objects you swap will determine how quickly you progress through the game, each object on the grid is either an item of food, a resource or some form of coinage and by swapping the right objects you can accumulate enough materials to build a building.
Why would you want to build a building? I hear you ask, this is quite ingenious, when you build a building it'll grant you something new, be it a food type that gives you more points or a power up.
Power ups come in many varieties and their primary function is to help you destroy the blue tiles more easily, the power ups range from an axe that'll destroy one blue tile on the grid or a lightning bolt that'll randomly destroy quite a few tiles on the field to bombs that'll destroy large areas. These power ups at times are the difference between completing and failing a puzzle. The special attack charges as you play a level, for example you'll see objects in the shape of an Axe on the gird, those objects when lined up and destroyed charge your axe power up. All power ups are charged in this manner.
In terms of portability this game was made to be taken out and about, the levels are short, only lasting around five minutes each and the controls are solid, the game saves after every level you play so if you're in a hurry you can just simply turn it off once you've finished a level.
Now we move onto the sound, yeah sure when you first boot up the game you'll think "heck this don't sound too bad", which you'd be right, the menu music is quite fitting and sounds almost rustic. But the actual in game music is loud, it almost sounds like a remixed version of the music from the original columns for the Sega Mega Drive but with synth instruments instead of beeps, it truly is terrible which is such a shame because the gameplay itself is so solid.
The graphics are nothing fancy and they really don't need to be, the game is presented in an almost history book kind of style in terms of illustration which suits the game very well indeed, the graphics are colourful and all the objects on the grid are easily recognisable. The only complaint have is the tiles are maybe a little too small for the DS screen; I found myself at times hitting the wrong tiles even though I know I hit the correct one.
Overall if you are a casual gamer or your one of these people who bought a DS for Brain Training, give this game a go, it is seriously fun and you can pick it up anytime without the worry of remembering the story or how to actually play the game.