The Jewel Quest series is fast becoming something of a recurring negative on Nintendo's handheld systems. Ignoring the fact that each entry has been generically dull, the alarming rate at which each new instalment is being released is certainly a cause for concern. Forget Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed with their yearly releases — we're seeing a new Jewel Quest on a near monthly basis! Of course, this wouldn't be a problem if each game had something new to offer. Yet, not only is each game an inferior clone of Match-3 classic Bejeweled, there's also barely any change between instalments.
Incredibly, Jewel Quest 4: Heritage for the 3DS manages to go one step further than this, in that it's more or less identical to a title released in June: Jewel Quest 4 Heritage — you may recall that that we reviewed this very title for DSi last month. If you’re wondering what the developers have done since then to enhance the 3DS version, then the answer is very little.
It's worth clarifying that under most circumstances there is nothing wrong with porting games; the majority of third-party titles see a multi-platform release in order to reach as wide a demographic as possible. The difference here, however, is that 3DS owners have access to the DSiWare service and can download games through it. The reason why this is significant is because the 3DS version of Jewel Quest 4 Heritage is almost entirely identical in terms of content, with the only noticeable changes being the resolution, the 3D effect and some minor graphical tweaks. When you take into account that the latter two updates are more or less irrelevant (the top screen simply displays a static image most of the time) and that the publisher is charging extra for the privilege, this latest version amounts to little more than a pointless cash-in.
For those that are unfamiliar with the series, Jewel Quest 4 Heritage is a Match-3 puzzle game. In each of the game's 170 levels, you are presented with a board divided into tiles with gems on top. In order to complete a stage, you must match three or more gems over every single title on the board. Doing so will make the tiles turn to gold and the gems above will cascade downwards to allow more to fill the board.
As you progress the boards feature an increasing amount of awkwardly placed tiles that jut out, making it more difficult to complete a match over them. As a result, Jewel Quest 4 Heritage is slower paced than the traditional high-score fest and requires a more strategic approach. Unfortunately, the awkward tiles only serve to make the game more frustrating; the gems that cascade the board are random, meaning that stages can end up being a real drawn-out affair through no fault of your own. It’s a shame because there is a power-up system, but it plays such a minuscule role that it barely affects the pace of the gameplay.
This edition still has the same game modes that were offered in the DSi version and, therefore, the same flaws that came with them. For example, Swaps Mode allows you to swap any two adjacent gems, regardless of whether or not it results in a match. This sounds fun, mainly because it exists for the sole purpose of being able to rack up major combos. However, it makes the gameplay a bit too easy and combos are a bit pointless in a game that isn’t score-centric.
Jewel Quest 4 Heritage has received a minor presentation boost during its upgrade to the 3DS. The title takes advantage of the increased resolution offered by the system, although disappointingly the touch screen’s available space isn’t used as effectively as it could have been; the boards and gems are small, making gameplay a bit fiddly if you’re using a standard 3DS system. The 3D effect is mostly wasted on the top screen, which only shows a rather dull image and your score. It’s also used during the story mode’s cutscenes, although these are poorly put together and fail to make use of the power afforded by the system.
In many ways, Jewel Quest 4 Heritage is even more of a disappointment than its DSi counterpart. Both versions are available for 3DS owners to download, and when there’s hardly any difference between them it begs the question why you would even consider the more expensive 3DS port. The near identical content aside, Jewel Quest 4 Heritage was never a good game in the first place, and this port suffers from the very same flaws as the DSi version. The improved resolution may make it easier on the eyes, but the visuals are still poor and most certainly aren’t worth the increased cost. If you’re fanatical about Match-3 games and must play this, then do yourself a favour and opt for the cheaper DSI version instead.