It seems like the Match-3 genre never stops growing, with some new form of the popular puzzle games appearing what feels like every other week. It's a genre that has seen hundreds upon hundreds of releases, and there's little sign of it slowing down.
If anything, it's baffling that so many of these games are still being made. Very few Match-3 titles achieve the mass market appeal that more popular entries in genres experience on a regular basis; the key titles here being Bejeweled and, more recently, Candy Crush Saga. And there's very good reason why the majority of these Match-3 titles rarely do manage to build up a considerable audience: it's because they're usually not very good games. Yes, despite the genre expanding at an ever-increasing rate, most Match-3 titles fail to innovate and provide truly entertaining gameplay experiences. The developers of these games have a tendency to follow a rinse-and-repeat formula, while paying little to no attention to the game's presentation values in the process. Unfortunately, Jewel Quest 4 Heritage falls into this category.
In a way this is a great shame, because Jewel Quest 4 Heritage actually breaks the typical match-3 conventions in some places to provide a more unique experience. The only problem is that it's just not very fun. To make things worse, the gameplay is quite limited in scope, the visuals and audio are poor, and the development team has made some peculiar game design choices in certain places. As a result, even the most ardent Match-3 puzzle fanatic will struggle to find much enjoyment in Jewel Quest 4 Heritage.
The game's story follows Rupert Pack, an archaeologist renowned for his work with an artefact known as the Golden Jewel Board. It's a horribly cheesy affair, as this precious object has been seized by Rupert's arch-nemesis, Sebastian Grenard, who has claimed it as a family heirloom. In order for Rupert to get the Board back, he must sift through his heritage and prove his ownership by — wait for it — completing a load of Match-3 puzzles. We're not making this up, it really is that bad. It seems strange that the developers have put such an emphasis on the story aspect to the extent that the narrative even features a full voice-over. This is because the story's events don't match up with what you're doing, therefore making it very hard for you to feel engaged with the plot. As a result, it's a mostly passable affair.
The core gameplay is essentially the same as any other Match-3 game; line up three or more gems by swapping them around. In Jewel Quest 4 Heritage, the goal is to match gems up over every single tile of the board. Doing this makes the tiles change colour, and once they've all changed, the level is complete. This type of gameplay is not as fast-paced as other Match-3 games that place the emphasis on achieving as high a score as possible, rather it's more strategic. Many of the boards feature awkwardly placed tiles jutting out that make matches more difficult. This adds a certain degree of challenge to the game, but it can also be very frustrating as your success is determined by the random selection of gems that cascade the board. If you're not careful, this can lead to long and drawn-out moments that really suck the fun out of the experience. There's a power-up system to assist with moments like these, but it's rather limited and rarely provides you with the game-changing bonus you need.
Jewel Quest 4 Heritage is unique in the sense that it bends the traditional Match-3 rules at times. Swaps Mode, for example, allows you to swap any gem on the board, regardless of whether or not it results in a match. This enables you to position your gems in more ideal positions for clearing a larger set of tiles. However, the catch is that you have to do this within a certain number of moves. While it is a novel idea, it makes the gameplay a bit too easy, and the move limit is rarely ever a problem.
This title really falters when it comes to the overall presentation. Jewel Quest 4 Heritage may only be a DSiWare title, but that doesn't excuse the fact that it is a very bland-looking release. Strangely enough, the Boards on which you swap gems are quite small and don't make the most efficient use of the screen. This makes swapping gems seem unresponsive at times, as it's all too easy to select the wrong one. Otherwise, there's just nothing visually interesting about this game; special effects could have at least been used to make it all feel a bit more exciting. When you also take into account the irritating sound effects and repetitive soundtrack, Jewel Quest 4 Heritage quickly becomes a game you don't want to play for very long.
With over 170 Boards to complete, Jewel Quest 4 Heritage is a mammoth-sized challenge. However, when the gameplay is as lacking in entertainment value as it is, it's very unlikely that you'll have the stamina to actually reach the end.
Jewel Quest 4 Heritage is a disappointing entry in the Match-3 genre. The gameplay is generic for the most part, and the one somewhat innovative feature, Swaps Mode, actually removes some of the challenge of the game. When you take into account that it looks mediocre, sounds pretty terrible, and pales in comparison to other a Match-3 games, there's simply very little reason to download this title.