We often complain about the lack of innovation in today's games industry. Publishers and developers tend to take the safe and easy route, making games that stick closely to a tried-and-tested template with the odd tweak here and there. While there's nothing wrong with making a sequel to a popular game, it's not unreasonable for us consumers to expect that the next title will improve upon the previous effort.
When it comes to the concept of innovation, Jewel Quest 5 - The Sleepless Star fails spectacularly. One would have hoped that the developers would have at least used some of the time in-between games to look at what went wrong last time, what needed improvement and what new ideas could be implemented. Of course, this sounds like a good idea until you realise that this latest game's predecessor, Jewel Quest 4 Heritage, was — much to everyone's bafflement — only released earlier this very same month. Now, Jewel Quest 5 - The Sleepless Star has clearly not been made in a mere few weeks, but you could be forgiven for thinking it was given how similar these two games are. In fact, you could read our Jewel Quest 4 Heritage review and, save for a few story and gameplay elements, you'd probably have just as good an idea about what kind of experience Jewel Quest 5: The Sleepless Star offers.
The gameplay is virtually the same as the last game: match up gems over each section of the board at least once to complete a stage and move onto the next. The same graphical assets from Jewel Quest 4 Heritage are used throughout, and most of the boards sport a similar layout to those found in the last game. Annoyingly, the game still suffers from many of the same complaints as its predecessor: the boards are still quite small, and they don't make the most of the screen size available. Moreover, the story is generic, dull and is in no way tied to the gameplay. There's full voice-acting throughout but it's far from engaging, and the story does little to motivate you through the game. To make matters worse, it's also plagued by a horrendously monotonous soundtrack and low-quality sound effects.
It must be noted that there are some gameplay tweaks, although they don't really have any significant impact on the experience. For example, in certain stages, you must clear certain parts of the board first before you can use all of it. Unfortunately, it doesn't add any extra challenge, because you still retain the ability to swap gems across the entire board regardless. Another mode tasks you with clearing gems along the sides of the board, which opens up more spaces. Again, it results in a minor change of focus, but it isn't any more challenging or entertaining for it.
As you make your way through the game, you unlock gameplay modifiers. With these you are able to alter the gameplay conditions in various ways, such as the ability to sacrifice a portion of your available time in order to earn more points per match. This actually works quite well, and in some instances ramps up the challenge quite a bit. However, Jewel Quest 5 - The Sleepless Star is quite a slow-paced game, mainly because you have to clear every single part of the board. Certain areas of most boards jut out awkwardly, meaning that it can take a fair amount of time just to clear that one specific area. This is because your success in this area is determined by the random selection of gems that appear on the board. As a result, certain modifiers can frustratingly result in multiple playthroughs of the same stage. This only serves to make the game less fun and feel more like a chore.
As far as sequels go, Jewel Quest 5 - The Sleepless Star is a disappointing and lazy effort. Given that the Match-3 genre is already nearing saturation point, a bit of innovation and refinement to this stale formula would have helped to make this much more entertaining and appealing. Instead, this is more or less the same game with a different paint job. Even if you haven't played a game in this particular series before and happen to love the genre, there's really very little reason to pick up this title over other, far superior Match-3 games.