Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome 2
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2012-07-09 Nintendo 3DS Puzzle E (Everyone) Cerasus Media / Rising Star Games

Perhaps more than any other franchise in recent memory, Jewel Master has been tackled by a mind-boggling number of developers and publishers, and has been released in some form or another on major consoles, handhelds and even mobile devices. Throughout it all, the gameplay remains the same, as we're given the opportunity to travel to the origins of an ancient civilization and complete dozens of levels of match-three play to bring the civilization to life.

In Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome 2 on 3DS, we see Cerasus Media and Rising Star Games taking us back to the beginning of the massive Roman Empire, where we'll be able to complete 100 match-three levels of varying complexity and size. Each level has the overall goal of clearing all colored squares by making matches of three or more like symbols on top of them, but the difficulty therein varies greatly in each stage depending on the design of the game board or how many obstacle tiles are placed in your way. A tile may be locked behind chains, for instance, requiring you to make a match with it to remove the chains, or skull tiles may appear that create more colored tiles, reversing your progress.

Each type of tile corresponds to either one of eight power-ups or a building resource (food, wood/stone or gold). Power-ups may allow you to remove a single tile or blow up whole sections of the board (as examples), but you'll need to play dozens of levels before unlocking more for your use. Back in the village itself, you'll use the aforementioned resources to construct buildings, but there's unfortunately a dull tile-sliding mini-game presented before each.

You can skip these mini-games only after waiting around 30 seconds for the skip meter to charge, but it would take much longer than that to actually solve each level by hand. These mini-games add nothing of value to the experience, and are just one example of how poorly the 3D screen is utilized in the entire game, as the blue, white and gray building blueprints are blurry when utilizing the 3D of the top screen.

Speaking of 3D, Cradle of Rome 2 offers perhaps the worst 3D implementation I've seen in a game to date. Your two options for 3D are either "100% on or 100% off" with no variations in between, and since all of the action takes place on the touch screen, there was clearly incredibly little focus actually placed on making sure the 3D images looked good (or, even actually looked 3D). Unfortunately, the touch screen layout also has problems, as symbols are incredibly tiny, forcing you to hold the 3DS far too close to your face just to tell the difference between similar-looking shapes.

All told, Cradle of Rome 2 on 3DS functions fine for those looking for a standard match-three game, or those that are already familiar with the few unique elements throughout the Jewel Master franchise. However, it should be pointed out that the game has already been available on iPad for some time, in a version that costs only $4.99 to purchase, and obviously plays much better due to the larger screen (we've played both). Your choice then, comes down to whether or not you own an iPad alongside your 3DS, or just have Nintendo's handheld (perhaps as a toy for your children). Only in those cases, where an iPad isn't available, would Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome 2 be truly recommendable, as the symbols are too small and the 3D implementation too poor to warrant a $30 investment.