Rather than casual games that challenge players to click furiously to accomplish goals — such as time-based micromanagement games a la Diner Dash or Cake Mania – some digital diversions serve as relaxing getaways for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Jewel Quest Solitaire 2 is a perfect example of the latter, as its relatively simple premise, slow pace and compelling story make this an ideal pick for puzzle fans of all ages.
This game might best be described as a mah jong-like matching game, but it uses playing cards instead of tiles. Players are presented with a unique layout of mostly face-down cards: one design might resemble a game of Klondike solitaire, another might be a fanned half-circle, while a third might be eight piles of four cards each. As if you were looking down on the cards, the top cards will be face-up, plus players will see three cards turned up at the bottom of the screen, next to a pile of face-down cards. The goal of the game is to clear the board by pairing up cards with equal value (such as two 5s) or with a card that has one value higher or lower (such as a 2 and a 3 or a Queen and a Jack).
Herein lies the rub: you can’t access the majority of the cards until you can remove the card that’s on top of them. Therefore you need to plan ahead by strategically choosing which cards to pair up or else you’ll be left with unmatchable face-up cards, such as a 3, 9 and Ace, and inaccessible face-down cards underneath.
The three face-up cards at the bottom of the screen can be used when you’re out of options on the main board. Therefore, if you have a 2 on the screen, you can pair it up with an Ace, 2 or 3 from the cards below. You’ll flip three new cards from the deck when you need to make a match.
Special wild cards (jokers), point multipliers and power-up cards will help you along the way. After you pass each screen you’ll also be treated to a Bejeweled-like mini-game, where you’ll have a predetermined number of moves (such as nine) and you’ll try to create as many 3-in-a-row lines as possible, vertically or horizontally, consisting of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and so on. You can try to get a perfect score by turning all the tile backgrounds gold, which can only be accomplished by successfully making a 3-in-a-row match.
Jewel Quest Solitaire 2 features 114 levels in total, for both the main story mode and story-less cards-only mode.
Oh yes, the story. Similar to the first game, you read about a woman named Emma, whose husband leaves on a business trip to Africa in the 1950s. But you get word he never reached his destination. Emma smells something fishy and so she ventures to the continent to find out what happened. After each level, a new part of the story is revealed with an accompanying sketch (such as an airplane). This story, which is quite entertaining, really makes you want to keep playing since you’re given a little more of the tale, like peeling back the layers of an onion.
But it’s not a perfect adventure. A few issues with the game are that it’s on the easy side (even my 5-year-old was completing levels); there isn’t much replayability once you’ve finished the game; and it’s not too different than the original card-matching game despite the new story and layout patterns.
But if you’re looking for a very good – but not extraordinary – solitaire card game experience, you’ll find Jewel Quest Solitaire 2 is a relaxing and enjoyable temporary escape from the daily grind.