IGN Review of Jewel Quest III
Match three games have a broad appeal. There's practically no barrier to entry, the issue of hardware power is essentially nonexistent, and they're usually priced extremely affordably, sometimes free. Regardless of which kind of player you are--a hardcore gamer used to the idea of playing until shadows noticeably lengthen around you or a more casual gamer who puts in 15 minutes to an hour before moving on--you've probably played a match three game and have probably enjoyed it to some extent. I fit into the former category, and with Jewel Quest III, I found myself getting frustrated.
With these kinds of games, you expect a certain degree of chance to be involved. The basic gameplay revolves around lining up three identical icons on a grid. Once matched, the icons disappear, and the void they leave behind is filled as new icons fall from above. Since you have no control over which icons drop down, it's a gamble. It's like a slot machine, as sometimes the new icons that fall happen to match up with what's already on the board and cause chain reactions, while other times nothing happens.
It's not all luck, though. If you're perceptive enough it's possible to identify which matches can be made that will generate chain reactions with icons already on the board. It's also possible to match more than three of a kind, meaning more replacement icons fall into the board, increasing your chances of a random chain. The Jewel Quest franchise features the added wrinkle of turning the grid tiles behind successfully matched icons gold. To complete a stage, it's necessary to turn gold the entire board, something made more difficult on grids that aren't rectangular or square in shape as you have to deal with awkward alcoves harboring isolated icons. And because the icons that fill in the board aren't under your control, it can make finding a match for these icons unnecessarily challenging. You're basically forced to match as many nearby icons as quickly as possible and hope the right replacements fall in, as there's a time limit for each grid.
In Jewel Quest III's main game, which contains quite a bit of content, the basic gameplay is tweaked in different ways as you travel to locales around a virtual globe. There's a story here, told through text descriptions before you load into a level, but it's not much of a tale, and something you're likely to skip right by after a few games. I suppose it could be argued that simply having a story in a game like this is an asset, but when the story's not very interesting, it's not much of a bonus. You should, however, keep an eye on the text, as it'll hint at or let you know what needs to be done to complete all the game's challenges.
As you bounce between each location on the globe, making matches and turning grid squares gold, you'll have to deal with some additional mechanics that sometimes help to make things feel varied, but at other times prove to be annoying. In some stages you'll be dueling AI characters, trying to be the first to turn gold your whole board or reach a specific total, and that works well. It doesn't work so well when you're in Iceland, trying to press ember icons against frozen grid blocks to allow them to be interacted with, which feels more like a tacked-on attempt at creating depth than an actual, more satisfying layer of gameplay. In some cases it can be rather frustrating, and that's not because of anything you've done wrong, but rather because things just didn't work out in your favor. In cases where you're clearly going to run out of time, you can just restart the board and hope for the best next time around, which seems kind of arbitrary, sort of like playing solitaire.
Still, there's a lot of content here, with plenty of stages to run through across the world, silver and gold-level challenges as well as hidden goals for each location, and a trophy room where your accomplishments slowly accumulate. A dueling tournament mode is also available for those who crave a more intense, competitive match three experience, where matching speed and skill of recognition can make more of a difference, and a mode which I found more enjoyable than the occasionally gimmicky world tour mode.
©2008-09-04, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved