Anyone who’s ever dreamed of becoming an archaeologist will feel an instant affinity for Jurassic Realm.

Your objective: Match patterns of three or more objects – crystals, bones, bugs, fossilized fangs, idols, stone axes, etc. – to excavate a whopping 151 levels by removing these items from the board.

Although the action takes time to heat up, watch out when this one starts cooking. It won’t be long before you’re mashing the mouse like a madman, only to stand up from the PC bleary-eyed and sore-fingered several hours later, wondering where the entire day’s gone.

Let’s dispense with the formalities up-front. This isn’t a title you’ll be playing for the audiovisuals; graphics are rudimentary and static, sound effects minimal and the music passable at best. Neither menus nor hint windows appear very polished either, with plain text pop-ups advising you of important developments.

Think positive, though.

Two distinct play modes, specifically quest (where you travel a main map seeking info on/images of 19+ dinosaurs) and arcade (progress without losing to win more images), are offered. Each features its own set of stages. And with the former letting you hop from level to level at will in completely non-linear fashion, well… Take it from us: It’s the title’s addictive blend of pattern-making gameplay that’ll keep you coming back for more.

Picture each playfield as its own, self-contained puzzle. All sport a uniquely shaped background grid and are filled with tiles.

Most tiles are emblazoned with specific icons. Clicking on one adjacent to two or more additional squares branded with the same mark causes all to disappear from the board with a squeak and flash. This immediately creates gaps on-screen. Naturally, the bigger the match made, the larger the hole you’ll create, and the more tiles which rain down from above to fill it in.

Others contain rubble, which can be eliminated by making matches using tiles located directly above them or to their sides. Still more sport icons encased within brown or grey blocks that must be incorporated into a match themselves once or twice, respectively, to be destroyed. Locked blocks appear now and again too. Bypassing these obstacles requires finding a tile with a key on it and making it part of a match.

Interestingly for a title that revolves around using deliberate strategizing to remove all rubble and blocks from play or eliminating a set number of tiles within limited timeframes, power-ups make the game. Such bonuses – offered in the form of collectible eggs activated by making matches – aren’t just catchy, they’re essential player tools.

A few examples:

  • Bomb Eggs – Explode, destroying nearby tiles. Gained when 5 tiles are matched.

  • Lightning Eggs – Send a sizzle of electricity soaring upwards and downwards, destroying all tiles in a single column. Earned following 10-tile matches.

  • Frag Eggs – Eradicate all on-screen tiles of the same type. Awarded for eliminating a 13-tile set.

The catch being that tactical planning only gets you so far here.

Yes, tiles’ randomly-generated nature means you’ll often get stuck and have to backtrack to different areas of the board. But clever game design ensures doing so eventually helps produce the power-ups that prove crucial to continued advancement.

With tension mounting, you’ll frequently wish a grid reset button or tile-swapping feature was available. However, rest assured perseverance pays off. In keeping with any top-quality interactive puzzler, here, to move one step forward, you must often seemingly take two or three back.

Maximum replay value is thereby ensured.

Special stages featuring a “golden sun aura,” which unlock bonus levels if completed before you run halfway out of time, don’t hurt in this regard either. Win them by collecting bonus eggs, and you’ll open 8 additional mountains for play in arcade mode.

Simplistic mechanics aside, there’s a surprising amount of depth on offer. It’s a paradox, predictably, that will amuse and entertain players of all ages and skill levels.

So while we can’t award Jurassic Realm points for presentation, hey… The game’s got it where it counts, as you’ll quickly learn once you start chipping away at its charming little mysteries.