Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome – DS

Developer: / Publisher: Rising Star Games


For what at first glance seemed to be a ten-a-penny puzzle game, Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome strives to bring a little extra to the tile-swapping party and surprisingly, attains some success.  Cradle of Rome is a puzzle game of the ‘match 3 tiles’ variety with the added task of building Rome.  Yes, the player doesn’t just get to randomly dab the stylus around in an attempt to build a high score, but they’re expected to build the heart of the Roman Empire and ascend Mount Olympus while they’re at it and it is this addition that makes the game more interesting than a standard puzzler.

The player gathers building materials and resources by swapping the tiles to clear the blue marble ones before the time runs out.  So far, so samey.  However, these resources build up and after each level is completed, the player can spend what they have accrued on a vital building such as a sawmill, foundry, or even a village.  Purchasing each available building in turn unlocks a new resource to collect which goes towards a new building and so on.  Before anyone gets too excited though, it isn’t quite ‘The Settlers’.  The available buildings are strictly controlled and ordered and you can’t just pick what you like and bung it down, it is linear.  Part of the game’s mind may have wandered into another genre’s territory but it’s heart is still a puzzler so you are limited and real choice is a mere illusion, albeit a pretty one.

Those stylus stabbings are finally building a better world, one resource at a time

Those stylus stabbings are finally building a better world, one resource at a time

The graphics are vibrant and glossy in the puzzle screens and the in between sprawl of a growing Rome while you spend your resources is detailed and pleasing to the eye.  All of this may be a trifle to some, for whom the puzzle is king but having colourful and well presented graphics aren’t going to harm it’s charm for the more casual puzzler, and indeed, can act as a pull beside drabber, crusty-nosed cousins on the shelf.

Vibrant graphics and well presented puzzle sceens don't hurt its cause one bit

Vibrant graphics and well presented puzzle sceens don't hurt its cause one bit

The discovery that the resource tiles vary on some levels was a welcome one: some feature wood, others stone or hammers in addition to the standard coins and what appear to be leaves.  This touch of variety adds to the rest that the game offers and as such, offers a less tiresome playing experience, ensuring that it isn’t simply a five minute bus journey filler, but something someone may genuinely want to finish.  Indeed, seeing the city start to grow with the addition of each hard earned building is actually quite chuffing and this goal gives the player something more worthwhile to aim for than some vaguely impressive numbers to their name.  Traditional puzzle fans may detest these arguably unnecessary additions but for a genre that is the home of games that for most, are a mild diversion to be enjoyed in short bursts, this should be a  good addition.

A vibrant puzzler that offers something more than simply chasing a high score. Die-hard puzzlers and purist traditionalists will perhaps resent the intrusion of the resource gathering and goals but it is a solid, nicely presented addition to the puzzler catalogue.

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Filed Under: Nintendo DSReviews


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