Its gameplay is enjoyable enough, but Jewel Mania contributes precious little to the match-3 genre
Those in the market for a new match-3 game have quite a few options. And ultimately, this is a good thing. The more developers that compete for our attention, the more likely we are to see new and interesting takes on an otherwise fatigued concept. Jewel Mania, rather than shake things up, opts instead to refine ideas we’ve already seen in the genre. This tactic works for the most part, although match-3 veterans may walk away with a strong feeling of déjà vu.
Like many of its mobile colleagues, Jewel Mania‘s gameplay is broken up into bite-sized chunks, with 60 levels that typically last from 30 seconds to a minute long. The requirements change with each new level, although you’ll still be sliding jewels and matching up a storm in every single one. And, sadly, the game tends to loop between the same handful of requisites, such as scoring enough points or destroying all of the special tiles in a certain number of moves or before the timer runs out. It would be unfair to expect anything revolutionary here, but I was still left wondering why there wasn’t more of a variety.
This exclusion is somewhat forgivable, as the level design provides players with additional challenges to take on. There are boxes that can only be destroyed by matching three gems adjacent to them, portals that crop up in later levels, and other obstacles that force you to play in different ways. If you haven’t played a lot of match-3 games in the past, this alone will probably sell you on Jewel Mania. Those more well-versed in the genre, though, are likely familiar with all of these ideas.
The game also constrains the amount you can play in one sitting–a concept as ubiquitous as the gameplay itself. Each level costs one gem to play, and regardless of whether you win or lose, you have to pony up. On the plus side, winning a level will net you one of these gems. Conversely, this also means that it’s possible to sit down with the game and lose a level five times, only to be forced to purchase more gems (with either real money or gold earned in-game) or walk away with the feeling that you’ve accomplished nothing. Seeing as how the game is free, though, that’s a perfectly fair way to go about it. And besides, your gems regenerate over time.
There are also “Boosts” that can be purchased with coins or gold blocks earned from playing. These grant you the ability to do things like reshuffle gems on the playing field, increase the amount of points you earn in a given level, and start a level with a power-up in your arsenal. They’re all useful, and make some of the more difficult levels easier to digest, but seasoned match-3 vets may again feel a sense of déjà vu.
Jewel Mania‘s levels are home to a variety of power-ups that pop up on the playing field and–keeping with the theme–they too have a very familiar feel to them. There’s a diamond that destroys all the jewels of a given color, a jewel that will shoot off and destroy every jewel on a line, and other such jewel-destroying fodder. There are only so many types of power-ups one can implement in a match-3 game, though, so it’s hard to fault the game for being derivative in this aspect.
One area where the game manages to differentiate itself is its visuals. The backgrounds and characters alike have a very storybook look to them, making the game a delight to look at. It would have been nice to see the jewels and playing field feature the same kind of aesthetic, but as it stands they have a striking similarity to what’s found in other match-3 games.
Jewel Mania‘s problem, then, is that it never dares to be different. What’s here is perfectly fine–and fun to boot–but we’ve seen it sundry times in previous games. Diehard fans of the genre likely already have a game or two on their device to scratch their itch, and there’s little reason to jump ship to this one. That said, if you haven’t already married yourself to a match-3 game, you could do far worse.