Fifth Jewel Quest match-3 boasts fresh setting and new boards.
If it's pure match-3 gameplay you're after - no hidden object interludes or mini-games, and plenty of challenge - then Jewel Quest: The Sleepless Star is a sure bet. Like all Jewel Quest games before it, the fifth game in this gem-swapping series is extremely challenging and at times frustrating, but that makes it all the more satisfying when you finally do clear a board or get that elusive 5-star ranking.
With Jewel Quest: The Sleepless Star we set aside the story of Rupert and his rival Sebastian Grenard for the moment to travel back to 1901 and go adventuring with one of Rupert's ancestors, Percy Pack. If you played the previous game, Jewel Quest: Heritage, then you'll remember Percy from the ol' family tree. A scientist, Percy travels to Algonquin country in search of a strange and powerful jewel called the Sleepless Star, only to find that it's been stolen. Percy teams up with a young Algonquin woman named Yellow Feather to hunt down the thieves and get the jewel back. Their journey takes them through six chapters of gameplay with more than 200 jewel boards to play.
The Sleepless Star features the same core gameplay as its predecessors. The goal is to match three or more jewels to clear them from the board and turn the tiles below to gold. The board is complete when all the tiles are turned to gold before the allotted time limit runs out.
We've come to expect new boards with each new Jewel Quest game, and The Sleepless Star is no exception. There are Climbing boards, where you must turn the bottom half of the board gold first in order for the rest of the board to become playable; Secret Entrance boards where parts of the board are completely hidden until you make matches next to them; Light Fire and Disarm Trap boards which both involve maneuvering special pieces onto other special pieces; fog-filled Pathfinding boards; Dodge boards with giant blocks, and my personal favorite: Evasion boards, where "bad" pieces slowly climb up the board and have to be neutralized before they reach the top.
While Heritage organized levels into sections dangling from a family tree, The Sleepless Star returns to the more or less linear approach of winding your way across a map one level at a time. Jewel Quest's famous difficulty curve is in full effect here too. Even though there's nowhere to go but forwards (unless you count optional side-routes), you'll still likely find yourself having to double back and replay levels over again to try to achieve the highest possible star rating.
Artifacts are a new addition to The Sleepless Star that are earned as you play. These 16 totems are more than just trophies to admire in a virtual trophy case - you can equip an artifact and take it with you into your next jewel board match. Each artifact yields different bonuses during play, such as additional seconds on the timer or extra points.
Gameplay-wise, The Sleepless Star is as solid as ever with some subtle improvements over Heritage. The two things we took issue with in our review - time limits in boards with a limited number of moves, and time limits that seemed just a tad too severe overall - have been addressed. (There are several artifacts that can pad the timer, and a handful of boards are now untimed.)
What impressed me most, though, is how the board types and even sometimes the shapes of the boards themselves in a given level tie into the story. When Percy and Yellow Feather are being chased by wild dogs, for example, you have to build fires to keep the dogs at bay by playing a sequences of Light Fire boards. When that doesn't work you must scramble up a ledge - which is a jewel board in the shape of an ascending staircase.
The story itself is much more exciting and action-packed than Heritage, and wonderfully presented with comic book-style illustrations and competent voice-over dialog. You can skip the story if you're in a big rush, but it does a good job of moving the game forward and doesn't overstay its welcome. It's also entertaining how the story keeps going even after you dive into a jewel board. As you complete more and more of a given board, comic book panels pop up along the side to show a progression of events - like the characters climbing up a cliff or exploring a cavern.
In short, Jewel Quest: The Sleepless Star is a great addition to the Jewel Quest match-3 franchise. Like its predecessors, it offers weeks and weeks of gameplay for those who want to achieve everything there is to unlock. The American frontier setting adds some freshness to the series too, and the interesting story and top-notch presentation make you want to stick around to see what happens next.
- Fresh story and setting. Great presentation. New board types work well. Gameplay makes sense in context of story.
- Core gameplay still the same the fifth time around.