The best casual games are easy to pick up but difficult to put down.
7 Wonders of the Ancient World is one of these games that – despite its lack of originality – can be figured out how to play in mere seconds, but proves to be a huge time sink.
What’s with the crack about its unoriginality, you ask?
Well, if you’ve ever played three-in-a-row games such as Bejeweled or Jewel Quest, you’ll immediately be familiar with 7 Wonders. You know, those games that have you to swap adjoined gems on a board so that three or more of the same color are in a row, vertically or horizontally? Doing so causes these gems to disappear; the goal is to quickly make as many rows as you can to accumulate a certain number of points within a predetermined time limit.
This puzzler follows the same tried-and-true formula, but adds an Egyptian theme and bonus power-ups that helps add a bit of a fresh spin on this familiar game concept.
7 Wonders refers to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (which was originally compiled around the second century BC!), including the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the mysterious Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Egyptian sands. Tiny cartoon workers toil away on the bottom of the screen to build these structures for you while you align your gems in the center part of the screen.
New to the genre are special bonuses and power-ups for performing certain moves. For example, aligning four gems in a row gives you a special lightning ball that, when swapped with an adjacent gem, sends a bolt of lightning down that row, removing the entire layer of jewels. Aligning five gems grants you a fireball that explodes and removes all surrounding gems. Sun balls, when swapped with say, a blue gem, explodes all same-colored jewels on the screen. You get the idea.
Each of the 49 levels also introduces cornerstones that cannot be swapped, but must drop down to the bottom of the screen so your builders can use the raw materials. Therefore, the only way to help this stone reach the bottom is to clear rows beneath it so it drops accordingly.
Clearing rows quickly adds more workers at the bottom of the screen, which helps build these wonders at a quicker pace.
The shape of the grid also changes from level to level. This adds an additional layer of strategy as you won’t be able to swap nearby gems if there’s a corner in your way.
Along with the Egyptian-themed runes with symbols on them, 7 Wonders carries this ancient Middle-Eastern flavor with fitting music (which is quite good, actually), special effects such as a waterfall flowing behind your gems in some levels, and other Mediterranean visuals such as the structures and other imagery on the left-hand side of the screen.
Speaking of graphics, while the game is attractive – including those cute little workers doing their thing at the bottom of the screen – your eyes rarely leave the board, so it’s almost a waste to include it. For example, if you take too long to remove that stone from the grid, your workers will stop building and hold up little picket signs…but I didn’t notice this until an onlooker pointed it out to me.
Other extras provided by the game makers include the ability to play the game a second or third time with increasing difficulty (for a total of 147 levels) and an optional "free play" mode that allows you to go back and play any completed level any time you like.
If you love three-in-a-row puzzle games and are looking for a well-crafted and highly-addictive one with an Egyptian theme, you won’t be disappointed with 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.