Jewel Master: Cradle of Egypt 2 3D
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2013-11-17 Nintendo 3DS Puzzle Cerasus Media / Rising Star Games

The Jewel Master games have been one of my favorite match-three series, right up there with Puzzle Quest and Bejeweled. In fact, this is the sixth review of a Jewel Master game that we publish.

After visiting and restoring the Roman and Greek civilizations, for the second time in the series we are taken to Egypt. Once again, our basic task is to create combinations of three or more of the same kind of icon by swapping two adjacent pieces.

Adventure Mode is basically your story, where you play through all five Epochs and build the empire. As you solve each puzzle and match pieces, you earn supplies. These supplies are needed to purchase and build new structures, which in turn give you access to more icons, more complicated puzzles, and the chance to earn more supplies with each match.

On the top screen you can see an overview of how many of each supply you currently have, the current landscape of your civilization and the timer column during a puzzle. You can turn the 3D effect on to see the depth in the landscape, as well as in the scenes that appear as you play each puzzle. It's a very nice added touch and the art is quite beautiful, but our attention remains on the touch screen most of the time.

Your basic resources are Food, Resources and Gold. Icons on the puzzle field are self-explanatory. Wood or Stone are Resources. Coins and Bracelets are Gold. Bread, Honey and Tomatoes are Food. Beer is also Food, but don't go saying that out loud, since it doesn't really work in real life. For most people anyway!

Once you have enough supplies you can purchase and build the next structure. This will take you to a sliding puzzle mini-game on the touch screen where you must compose the blueprint drawing that makes up the image on the top screen. These aren't all that difficult, and even give you an option to skip them if you don't feel inclined to attempt them.

Other than supplies, there are power-up icons. The more you match, the quicker the respective power-up will light up on the right side bar. These can be very useful when the puzzle field starts getting awkward shapes and chained up tiles. You can explode tiles, clear diagonal lines, break a single tile or gain extra time by using them.

Progressing through this game mode also unlocks Citizens, each belonging to a specific building and respective profession. There are 16 Citizens to collect that give you bonuses as you go on. For example, once you unlock the Carpenter you earn 1000 supplies every time you level up. You also earn Trophies for achieving certain goals. Trophies don't really do anything except give you a sense of accomplishment, and there are 12 to collect.

Tourney Mode lets you choose any of the puzzles you have completed during Adventure Mode, and race against the clock. Depending on how fast you complete each puzzle, you are awarded a Gold, Silver or Bronze Medal.

Blitz Mode is unlocked only after finishing Adventure Mode. The goal of the game is to play through as many puzzles as possible within the time limit, and you have a choice of three difficulty levels (Easy, Normal and Hard).

For a casual puzzle distraction, Jewel Master: Cradle of Egypt 2 3D works well. The gameplay seems faster than I remember in Cradle of Rome, where the pieces seem to fall in quick succession and you still manage to work on swapping pieces somewhere else on the puzzle field. The difficulty curve from puzzle to puzzle is maybe a little steep, but still manageable with clever use of power-ups.

The music is pleasant and fits the theme perfectly, as does the overall look of the game. The 3D effects make the landscapes much more interesting, with one flaw. When you purchase a new structure and build it, you see a very sloppy and pixelized animated 2D image of workers overlapping it, which looks completely out of place. But since you mostly spend your time looking at the puzzle field, you might want to find the cheaper option and purchase the regular DS version.

It may not offer much else new in terms of a match-three, but for those who are already familiar with Jewel Master and for fans of the genre it's not a bad choice for a handheld game.

Special thanks to Kate Heastrom, MMPR and Rising Star Games for providing a copy of this title.