iWin, Inc. is joining the puzzle fray with Jewel Quest for the Wii U eShop, this time with PlayEveryWare behind the developer's wheel, releasing the classic puzzle game on a console that's been surprisingly devoid of Match-3 games for a while now. Originally developed for PC by iWin in 2004, Jewel Quest has seen numerous re-releases, sequels and spinoffs (many of them, like Jewel Quest: The Sapphire Dragon, Jewel Quest 4 Heritage, and Jewel Quest 5 - The Sleepless Star, reviewed here at Nintendo Life).
This version of Jewel Quest is something of a reboot to the series. Rather than fill the game with strange stories, odd cutscenes and unnecessary content, the developers decided to tone it all down and return to the series roots. 72 puzzle boards, each more challenging than the last, provide a surprising amount of mental exercise. The purpose of the game is this: you're given a board of varying configurations filled with jewels. Like any Match-3 puzzle game you must swap jewels to line up at least 3 of a kind to clear them from the board; doing this turns the tiles behind to gold. Convert every tile on the board before the timer runs out and you've cleared the stage. It sounds simple enough, but the stages slowly get more and more tricky to line up, and strategizing jewel placement to ensure you capture every tile can be difficult under the timer.
It's almost refreshing this time around. At one point, Jewel Quest games were being pumped out on a near bi-yearly basis. Sequels and spinoffs abound, but none more impressive than the last. Now, it's not to say that this iteration is anything more special than the previous entries, but it's the first of the series on the Wii U, and the publisher has let the Jewel Quest saturation dry up a bit to give the genre more time to breathe.
The game is advertised as having "6 fantastic, beautifully rendered locations", and we will agree with them that the background art depicting various, almost mythical, locations (ruins, Japanese mountain range, ancient Egyptian cities, etc) are beautifully drawn. It clashes, however, with the horribly out of date puzzle board and jewels - the assets look like they've been pulled directly from the original Windows XP game.
Music is an important aspect to any game, and it's one thing Jewel Quest set out to do well. You're not going to be downloading the Jewel Quest OST any time soon, but the orchestral background music, unique to each backdrop, certainly gives the game an immersive feel (surprisingly, since this is simply a Match-3 puzzle game). It does a great job of making each move you make feel important.
Of course, as any Match-3 master knows, just playing alone and away from the world isn't enough. You need to be able to compare your score against others and hold it over your friends' heads. You need to see numbers that will inspire you to play more quickly and strategically. Jewel Quest for Wii U takes advantage of its online capability and has created a leaderboard. It's pretty basic in terms of online integration, and there's no head-to-head multiplayer, but it doesn't cut you off from other puzzle fans.
As you can probably tell by now this game isn't feature-rich. In the end it's still just a Match-3 puzzle game (a game type that is available around every corner on the web and on mobile phone app stores); while it doesn't bring anything new to the table, it does offer a classic on a newer device that didn't have many options in terms of the genre. If you're a fan of the genre or the original Jewel Quest games, it's a fun pick at $4.99, and the 72 levels can be quite challenging. If you're impartial to the series, or you're inundated with Match-3 on your iPhone or Android, then it's an easy game to pass on.