For years now, Cerasus Media has been pumping out game after game in the Jewel Master series, and very little has changed in that time. Each instalment is usually playable and entertaining enough, but in most instances the gameplay formula and overall presentation have remained the same. And while the classic phrase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" may apply in Cerasus Media's case (after all, the series continues to sell well it would seem), it's becoming harder to justify handing over our hard-earned cash for more or less exactly the same experience each time.
Despite this, it seems that the development team has finally cottoned on to the fact that change might indeed be a good thing. That's because Jewel Master Atlantis 3D — the latest game in the popular Match-3 series — bucks the trend. The core tile-swapping experience hasn't changed by any means, but lots of the issues that plagued previous entries have been remedied. It's far from revolutionary, but overall the improvements make for a much more streamlined and enjoyable experience.
In Jewel Master Atlantis 3D, the premise is fairly simple. The game starts off with a mermaid (or merman depending on who you choose) telling you that the once great mythical city of Atlantis was sunk by an evil god and that you must now help to rebuild it. Doing so requires quite a lot of resources, and the only way to amass these is to match up three or more corresponding tiles on a board. Yes, it may seem nonsensical, but such is the world of Jewel Master.
The adventure is thankfully a much smoother experience than in previous titles. The city building elements have been scaled down, with the focus now being on completing so many levels, rather than just collecting resources. You do still need to get a certain amount of three different resources per level, but it's only so that you can complete that particular level. Essentially, a real in-depth management sim-esque experience would have been the ideal direction to go in for this, but at least now this aspect of the game isn't getting in the way of your enjoyment of the Match-3 puzzles.
Moreover, there are no slide puzzles book-ending each section. These weren't always mandatory before anyway, but they always felt a little pointless. Shifting the focus back to the most important element (the Match-3 gameplay) means the overall experience is better in terms of pace and flow.
In terms of difficulty, Jewel Master Atlantis 3D is surprisingly tough in places. In addition to collecting resources, completing a stage requires you to swap tiles over blue sections of the board. Once these are gone, and you've hit the minimum threshold for resources, the stage ends. Of course, this isn't as simple as it sounds; certain tiles are locked with chains, and require an extra one or two matches to be removed.
Unfortunately, the transition to 3DS hasn't resulted in any substantial improvements in the visual department. The higher resolution provides a much clearer display for the player, but the presentation is ever so bland. Special effects are minimal, and the 3D serves no real purpose during gameplay. It does technically enhance the brief animations between levels, but they're hardly the most exciting thing to watch in the first place. This is an area where the game really falters; the market is flooded with Match-3 games, and utilising the system's power would have really helped to set this title apart from the rest.
Although Jewel Master Atlantis 3D lacks the production values you'd expect to see from a 3DS title, it's still a reasonably entertaining game. Those that have played previous titles in the series will likely appreciate the heavier focus on the core match-3 gameplay experience and other gameplay improvements. It is worth noting, however, that the "3D" in the title is perhaps a tad overemphasised given how it has been incorporated in such a minimal way. If you're a fan of the genre and are looking for a new puzzle fix, then Jewel Master Atlantis 3D might just be worth your time and money.