After playing the latest “3-in-a-row” puzzle game, Puzzle Detective — which also adds a fun story, memorable characters and many famous cities from around the world – it’s hard to go back to static and lifeless gem-swappers.

Intrigued? While not a perfect game, you should be. So here’s the scoop.

In Puzzle Detective, you play as a detective hired to recover a number of stolen jewels from the Smithsonian, such as the Hooker Emerald Brooch, Portuguese Diamond, the Bismarck Sapphire or the Marie Antoinette Earrings. Not unlike the “Carmen Sandiego” books, games and TV shows, you’re whisked away from one city to another as you analyze clues and deduce who the culprit is by examining the evidence.

Of course, there’s plenty of object-swapping game-play, too, so let’s discuss this first before we get to your sleuthing skills.

As with many 3-in-a-row games, Puzzle Detective presents a board with objects on them laid out in a random pattern. But instead of gems as with Bejeweled, it’s detective-related icons, including pipes, police badges, cameras, handcuffs, pocket watches, and the like. The goal remains the same, however, which is to use the mouse to swap adjacent tiles so that at least three of the same items are in a row (vertically or horizontally), which then disappear to make room for new tiles to cascade down the screen. In this game, you will eventually uncover a gold tile behind an item, which means you’re close to revealing a clue. That is, gold pieces are all touching behind some tiles, which may be in the shape of a square or rectangle (comprising of four or more pieces), and when fully uncovered, it reveals a clue, such as an Italian cookbook, tennis racket, Mozart CD or London travel guide. These clues will be necessary to find the thief, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

As players begin to travel to various locations – and you’ll see a hand-drawn backdrop to these towns behind the game board – you’ll also break through boxes before you can swap tiles on them. You’ll also form a glass window and then break it by matching tiles three times within the frame. You’ll also find the odd power-ups, such as a magnifying glass to reveal possible clues behind tiles or a lock and key that need to be paired to unlock the items. The problem with the latter is twofold: the game doesn’t offer enough of these power-ups (just two or three throughout the entire game) and the main power-up (the magnifying glass) doesn’t need to be used since the game is quite easy. In fact, about three-quarters of the way through the game, which took less than two hours, I had more than 20 of these power-ups and didn’t use one of them.

By analyzing the clues you’ve collected, you can either figure out which city you need to click to next on the map of the world or you may have enough to apprehend the criminal; you will see five suspects on the screen, as well as the clues lined along the bottom. By process of elimination, you can easily deduce who the thief is. For example, you can click to read the nationality of the suspects, what their hobbies are, what kind of food they like, and voila — by looking at the clues you can figure out which one is guilty. It’s pretty easy, though. In one instance, the French suspect was – duh – the one wearing a beret.

Even with these shortcomings, the zany characters you’ll encounter (including your demanding boss in NYC), unlockable clues and many locations – from L.A. and Hong Kong to Moscow and Rome to Paris and Bangkok – certainly keep the game exciting…while it lasts. The graphics and music soundtrack are also top-notch.

While the core tile-swapping game-play isn’t much different than other 3-in-a-row games, the globe-trotting detective element and high production values make this one a must-play for any casual games fan.