7 Wonders of the Ancient World Review
Posted by Zach Kaplan
Don't be fooled
There are many ways to play Bejeweled on the go, though when it comes to the DS catalogue, you're mostly looking at clones rather than the real deal. 7 Wonders of the Ancient World is one of those clones. It does more than just imitate the gold standard, however – it attempts to innovate as well. But what it adds to the mix takes away from the game's inherent symbol-swapping enjoyment.
Here, you have runes instead of jewels, each placed in front of a tile. You must swap runes to make sets of three or more, your movement restricted by the inability to swap without forming a match. Combining greater amounts scores you power-ups that clear larger amounts of runes at once. Your aim is to clear every tile to progress, and while these break apart, the symbols continue to fall over the entire screen. All of this is framed around collecting material for building the titular wonders as stone rides up a conveyer belt to workers on the top screen. After you've cleared a certain amount a capstone will fall, and you've got to destroy the runes below it to allow it safe passage. Each level is timed, and in the more difficult sections, racing against the clock can create a real challenge.
The problem occurs in having to clear every tile in each level, meaning that you'll end up focusing on certain spots. The restrictive nature of the Bejeweled clone makes sense for a game that's more about racking up points, but when you've got to pay attention to one tile, that tile at which three matching runes just won't line up, things seem a lot more reliant on chance than skill. If the game won't drop the right runes in the right spot, there's nothing you can do but continue to hope that you can destroy the runes above it and, eventually, the right ones will fall. On the other hand, clever level design and partitioning off certain areas of the board can make for some tricky shifting and an inability to use power-ups to solve your problems, and the game can feel quite enjoyable at these moments. Overall, 7 Wonders is usually quite a bit of fun – how can you go wrong when you copy a tried-and-true formula? – but the tile-clearing aspect can make things a bit tedious and frustrating at times.
There are plenty of levels and three unlockable difficulty modes, but more or less things feel the same from stage to stage. Additionally, you can read a bit of history for each wonder, though it doesn't get too deep in this area. There's a short scoreboard, but you have to complete the game to place. Besides this there's Rune Quest mode, which adds another layer – you must clear an amount of a certain rune to progress. Things feel even more up to the luck of the draw here, so unless that doesn't faze you, it won't provide much replay value.
The artwork is quite generic, fusing a bland colour scheme to bland illustrations of each wonder. The music is the same fare – you'll mute the simple, repetitive looping tracks before long (though the song that plays on the main menu has some unintentionally funny DJ scratching). On the other hand, the simple rune designs are colourful and stand out well from the background, providing a look that's generally easy on the eyes. The workers on the top screen can be a humorous bunch as well – their animations are simple and on the whole unimpressive, but it's sure cute when they react to your reduced output by going on strike. Conversely, some grunting and babbling is audible at times, which can get a bit jarring.
7 Wonders of the Ancient World is a very basic Bejeweled/Zoo Keeper clone, and the little it does to innovate can make things more frustrating and feel less under your control. However, especially when it becomes more challenging, it's still a lot of fun. Considering that it takes its formula from one of the most entertaining puzzle games of recent times, lack of originality isn't a terrible flaw, and it can entertain as well as any of its jewel-swapping competition – just don't count on it to bring much more that to the table.