Anyone familiar with the world of match-three games will know almost exactly what to expect from a title such as Jewel Match. Released, oddly enough, after Jewel Match 3 on the 3DS, this DSiWare version strips out the story, hidden object finding, and other extra mini-games of the past sequel and concentrates solely on the gem-swapping experience.
Jewel Match offers 150 boards to clear by switching gems around to form lines of 3 or more of the same colour. In this case, however, completing a board does not depend on the quantity of matches made, but their positions. Certain squares will be filled in with gold tiles, and a match made over those tiles will cause them to shatter. Clear all the tiles and you complete the stage.
A few roadblocks are thrown in to increase the challenge. Some jewels will start out chained, rendering them immovable and often blocking the flow of other gems until they are made part of a match; what’s more, some tiles and chains will be silver instead of gold, requiring two matches to make them disappear. Boulders will also occasionally trickle down onto the board, getting in the way and actually forming new tiles if three of them are matched.
On the helpful side, creating matches anywhere on a board will fill a meter that provides access to different levels of hammers. These tools range in strength from being able to shatter a single gem, to shattering chains and tiles, to clearing all of a single colour from a board. Creating a match of four will create a pearl that counts as a wildcard, while creating a match of five will create a Helix gem that can smash every jewel, tile, and chain in a row. There are even some power-ups that will shuffle jewels or remove tiles by blowing into the microphone.
Even with the power-ups and obstacles, Jewel Match fundamentally plays like many of the other match-three games out there. Its emphasis on where you make your matches draws the attention away from creating huge chains and cascades, however, and makes it more about filtering gems through quickly enough so that a match will eventually line up where needed.
This pressure is felt most in the “Normal” mode of play, which makes you play the boards in order and gives each one a set time limit. It is not too difficult to clear the stages, but it can be frustrating when time is running out (you never know exactly how many seconds you have left as you are given an hourglass and not a digital readout) and the right gems just aren’t coming. It can feel a lot more like luck than strategy in these cases, but the game thankfully grants you the opportunity to exchange one of the “lives” you earn throughout play for an extra 2 minutes instead of making you start over outright.
A “Relaxed” mode kills the pressure altogether by removing the time limits. It also begins at the first stage and climbs up, however, so if you start on one mode and switch to the other, expect to replay all the boards leading up to your drop-off point.
Finally, there is a “Hotseat” mode where two players can take turns tackling an already played board and compete for the best time. It’s difficult to see a pair of people becoming engaged in this, as jewel matching is not exactly the most exciting thing to watch someone do over their shoulder.
Even though it is a DSiWare game, the overall presentation of Jewel Match seems muted. Colours are somewhat dim and lacklustre (the screenshots provided appear more vivid than the actual product). Sound effects are also a bit tinny and the music, while not unpleasant, features the same short loops and can grow boring. The jewels themselves also rotate GIF-like and can even become a bit sickening if stared at for too long, but the animations can thankfully be stopped with a simple press of the X button.
Jewel Match provides a classic, basic match-three experience, but it’s hard to recommend it over the sea of other, similar titles out there; especially when it lacks any real elements that provide a unique twist or make it aesthetically pop. Big fans of match-three games who are always looking for more may still find enjoyment in this, but might also want to consider our review of Jewel Match 3 if they’re looking for more outside the jewelry box. If not, though, this may be their preferred pick.