Hidden object games meet Match-three puzzles in Jewel Quest Mysteries: Curse of the Emerald Tear, a new hybrid from iWin that fuses a seek-and-find adventure related to Egyptian lore with classic Jewel Quest gem-swapping.
While not the first to combine the two genres, it works in Jewel Quest Mysteries – but it’s far from a perfect experience.
Without revealing much of the story, Rupert and Emma are plunged into a mystery surrounding ancient Egypt and must visit the area, solve puzzles and unlock more of an intriguing tale told via journal entries and sketches.
The main type of gameplay is hidden object-based, a Where’s Waldo-like exercise in finding well-hidden objects in a busy indoor or outdoor scene. Along the left hand-side of the screen are a few items you need to find – a sword, pretzel, golf clubs and saucer, for example – within a specific amount of time. After you find and click the item it gets crossed off your list; when you find them all you move onto the map screen to select another location. If you click on an incorrect items three times you lose 30 seconds off the clock.
As with many other hidden object games, the items have nothing to do with the scene, and can be downright silly if you think about it, such as a dartboard hanging on the wall of an ancient tomb or a frozen popsicle in the middle of the desert. It doesn’t bother some gamers, but it sure annoys others. And yes, the obligatory hotdog is in this game, too.
You can also collect coins on each level, which can go towards the number of Hints you can click when stuck, as well as colored gems, used as a kind of currency when selecting an upgrade after every few levels. The upgrade screen lets you purchase something to help you along your adventure, such as more time added to the clock, additional hints or the ability to highlight a hidden object when the mouse is near it (called “jewel sense”).
Jewel Quest-like puzzles and other minigames are also found here. You must swap adjacent gems on a board so that at least three have formed a vertical or horizontal row. Doing so destroys the line and new gems cascade down the board. To complete the level you must turn every square on this board to gold, which adds a new layer of strategy to your game. As with the Jewel Quest puzzle games this is based upon, the Match-three diversion was a fun break from the main game.
Another kind of puzzle was less intuitive and thus less enjoyable; it involves selecting the correct gems in the proper order and dragging a design it makes onto a board. You’re supposed to replicate a pattern or make the entire board gold — we’re not quite sure (the instructions are quite vague). Anecdotally, we asked two other people to play this minigame and both couldn’t figure out the concept either.
Another beef with this game is some technical problems we had on one (fairly new) computer. It took a long time to load, ran slowly and crashed on occasion. The second computer we tried it on was just fine.
One other issue: when you revisit the same location, and you will early on in the game, the items are in the exact same place. Although you’re asked to find new items, you’ve likely combed the screen multiple times before, therefore you’ll find the new set of items much faster than the first visit. Some games change the location of all the items to keep you guessing.
We had a nice surprise while playing the game, though, if you see an iWin logo, click it, and you’ll be asked to go to a website to win $1,000 in a sweepstakes contest. It’s clever to weave it into the game-play itself.
Jewel Quest Mysteries isn’t a bad game – in fact, the many levels and attractive music and graphics make it a relaxing casual game – but with a number of flaws it doesn’t rank as high as more polished hidden object puzzlers.