I’m going to type three words, and I want you to continue reading this review after you see what they are. Ready? Jewel Craft is a new “match-three game” from GameOver Games. While that might elicit weary sighs of disappointment if you’ve come here looking for something original, stay with me as I reveal what lies beneath the surface of this particular gem.
The story of Jewel Craft places you in the role of a young apprentice in ancient Persia. As a boy working under the king’s chief jeweler, your job is to cut colored gems from stones and use them to create beautiful pieces of jewelry and other items adorned with precious stones. The king and queen are very particular about what they wear, so you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Jewel Craft features two modes, Story and Challenge. In Story mode, the screen is split vertically into two sections. On the right is a piece of unfinished jewelry requiring gems of different sizes and colors. You can also click on an icon that shows you how many of each kind of gem you need to finish the piece. On the left is a game board containing as many as 64 square stones, each with one side turned up. Each side of each stone contains a gem of a different color. Clicking the edge of the stone turns it over.
To cut a gem from the stone and place it on the jewelry, you must match colored gems from at least three stones. When you match more than three gems at once, they combine into a larger rock. After you use a stone, a new one appears in its place until there are no more reserves. This makes it possible to run out of gems before your piece of jewelry is finished, in which case you lose.
Matching gems that aren’t needed on the piece of jewelry powers up a series of progressive bonuses. The first allows you to rearrange the stones on the board, the second allows you to turn over five stones before a match is registered (allowing you to create larger matches) and so on. The most helpful bonus fills any empty squares on the game board with one new stone; it takes longer than the others to power up.
Challenge mode is available from the start. As in Story mode, the left side of the screen contains stones, but the right side consists of an urn into which jewels drop at timed intervals. Your task is to eliminate the jewels on the right side by cutting loose the corresponding stones on the left. If the container fills up, you lose. Challenge mode is a welcome diversion for those wanting gameplay that’s faster-paced than Story mode.
When I first started playing Jewel Craft, I thought I was on the road to writing a bad review. For starters, the mechanic of clicking on the edges of stones to turn them over is awkward, as there’s no clear visual indication of where to click other than the stone shaking when you hit the right spot. Also, it’s easy to miss and turn over the wrong stone. Worse, I was unable to determine how many stones were in a square at the start of a level, or how many more would appear in a square after I’d cut a few, so it was hard to strategize. Even if there is a set number, keeping track of how many stones there are in 64 squares wouldn’t be fun. And that’s what was missing as I started playing Jewel Craft — fun.
But I stayed with Jewel Craft, and it won me over, in large part because the gameplay reveals itself over time and stays one step ahead of your developing strategies. For example, I lost level six twice before I came up with the idea of upgrading my power-ups so I could add more stones to the board. Even using that tactic, I won by the skin of my teeth. On the next level, I intended to start out matching red gems to create powerups, as none were required on the jewelry I was making, but there were no red stones on the board. I could see the developers snickering and saying, “Thought you had it figured out, huh?”
Also, I have to give Jewel Craft props for being original. It’s getting harder and harder to come up with new ideas, but GameOver Games pulled it off. If you’re into fast-paced match-three games or offerings that allow for a clear line of logic, you might not go for Jewel Craft, as it requires patience and encourages experimentation. Plus, creating dozens of miniature gems every level gets tedious. Still, there’s satisfaction in winning a level by being judicious with your matches and smart with your power-ups.
I also like the artwork for the jewelry you create. The rest of the visuals are standard fare, including the hand-drawn cutscenes and the actual game board itself, but the jewelry sparkles, like ancient bling should.
Sometimes, it’s hard to picture how a gem will look on your finger when you’re staring at it through a glass case. So if you’re still iffy on whether or not Jewel Craft is for you, try the free demo; that’s what it’s for.