Review: Jewel Keepers: Easter Island (DSiWare)

Semi-precious stones

No one knows what it is that makes match-three puzzle games so fun and addictive to play, but it’s unavoidable. Wherever you turn, match-three puzzles exist, and it’s clear that DSiWare is no exception to that rule. With games such as Bejeweled Twist and Ikibago already available, Jewel Keepers: Easter Island is in good company. But does this game stack up to the competition, or should it just be left in the sand?

Jewel Keepers: Easter Island tells the story of Professor "H," his assistant Joel and his granddaughter Ivie who receive a mysterious letter from an inhabitant of Easter Island. The letter says that something bad is going to happen on the island, and that the Professor's help is required. The team then heads down to Easter Island where it must face a series of puzzles as it delves deeper into the island’s mystery. While the inclusion of a story in a puzzle game usually helps to make it more interesting and engaging, this one tends to fall flat: there isn’t enough in this story to make it even remotely remarkable, and there is no real sense of accomplishment when it advances and very abruptly ends.

Gameplay is incredibly straightforward and follows the exact same formula as most other match-three puzzle games. The DSi’s bottom screen features a grid filled with different coloured blocks that must be moved around and matched up. Matching three or more of the same coloured blocks will result in their breaking apart and being replaced with more blocks that you are then required to match. Getting different combos will make different blocks with strange abilities appear. All of these special blocks aid you by blowing up blocks that surround them, but some do it horizontally, some vertically, and some blow up blocks of a certain colour.

The one thing that really sets Jewel Keepers: Easter Island apart from other match-three puzzle games is the way in which you complete levels. The background behind each block is coloured grey, but when you accomplish a combo over a certain area, the background turns gold. Once all of the background is completely gold, the round is over and you have won. Run out of time or arrange the board in such a way that there are no more moves available, however, and you lose.

Though the game does progressively become more difficult, with the game board taking on strange shapes rather than the standard rectangular grid, the core gameplay always remains the same. The story contains 20 levels and can be completed in just a few hours. While there is a free play mode, the only levels available to play here are ones that you’ve already completed, making finishing the story a necessity if you wish to get the most out of the game. Despite the fact that the gameplay does little to advance to classic match-three formula, it is exactly this that makes it so addictive — the gameplay may not be the most original in the world, but it is a thoroughly fun and engaging style.

Though this game has already been released as a WiiWare title, the DSiWare version tends to stand out as the superior of the two. Even with the shortening of the story mode, and the fact that there is still no multiplayer available, the DSiWare version has a much more accurate control scheme. The DSi’s touch screen controls are precise and feel natural with this game.

While it’s not always something that you look for when playing this type of game, for what it’s worth, Jewel Keepers: Easter Island looks and sounds pretty great. The soundtrack is rich and jazzy and won’t take long to get your toes tapping, and all of the colours are vibrant. Aesthetically speaking, this is a rather pleasing game.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a decent puzzle game on a budget, then Jewel Keepers: Easter Island is not the worst choice that you can make. While other puzzle games with much more immersive and engaging stories are out there – we’re looking at you, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords – this one makes due with its simplicity. Anyone looking to kill some time with classic and engaging gameplay, look no further than Jewel Keepers: Easter Island. Those looking for something with a bit more story behind it, however, might want to check some sunnier shores.