Jewel Master: Cradle of Athena
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2010-11-27 Nintendo DS Puzzle E (Everyone) Storm City Games

At around this time last year, Storm City Games brought us Jewel Master: Egypt, a game which was, in itself, a continuation of Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome, which was released even earlier by Destineer. Now, we see Storm City combining elements from both Egypt and Cradle of Rome in their newest DS game Jewel Master: Cradle of Athena.

For those entirely unfamiliar with the "Jewel Master" ideology, the entire goal is to build your own civilization - in this case, a bustling version of Athens in Greece. To do so, you'll play through dozens of levels of match-three gameplay, where each level has a series of tiles that start as one color and must be turned into another color by creating a match over them.

Once you've turned all of the tiles to their final color (you'll eventually have to make multiple matches over tiles to change their color an equal number of times), an orb will appear on the screen, and you must make matches under said orb so that it falls to the bottom of the screen, thus ending the level.

In order to actually allow you to build buildings, you'll earn resources such as wood and stone (among various other construction materials), food, and riches (jewelry, gems, and other items that correspond to money) as you make matches. In between levels, you'll be able to spend these resources to build the items that correspond to each Dynasty in the creation of Athena.

At first, you'll start by building the most basic elements of a society those that will allow your citizens a place to live, a place to farm resources, and the like, but quickly thereafter, you'll move into the realm of temples and other large structures that you would expect to find in the Grecian theme.

Where the game differs from Jewel Master: Egypt is in the inclusion of new blueprints. These blueprints are awarded every few levels, and once you have them all, you'll need to rearrange the pieces in an entirely different kind of puzzle level that being a tile-sliding puzzle that, in my humble opinion, is the most negative aspect of the title. These levels feel unnecessary, and for someone with as little patience for them as myself, I am just as happy to hit the "skip" button and move on than actually try to solve it.

That being said, these blueprint structures mark the ending points to each Dynasty, or that particular block of levels, after which point the levels will then have different symbols, mostly resulting in you being able to earn more resources with each individual match than you did in previous levels. This correlates to the increased costs of buildings and structures you'll construct, and creates a nice sense of progression as you go along.

Graphically, the entirety of gameplay lacks in detail, due to the fact that there is so much information on both of the DS's screens, meaning that each symbol on the game board, or each building in your town is downright tiny. However, these match-three titles don't really need to be graphically stellar, so long as the gameplay functions, and is at least mildly entertaining, which it is here.

How entertaining the title ultimately becomes however will be decided by the patience of the particular user, and whether they have already been exposed to the multiple variations on this same gameplay theme in the past. The less experience you have, the better the title will seem, whereas someone like myself can easily pick out the flaws.

For the holiday season, if you're looking for a game that will set you back less than $15 on most online retailers, you could do far worse than this.