If it’s true that you fear what you don’t understand then Jewel Quest should be positively terrifying. Whilst the puzzler appears simple enough at first glance, presenting you with a grid of mystic totems and asking you to swap adjacent symbols in order to make lines of 3 or more, what happens when you actually start to play is far more bewildering.
Making suitable matches is easy enough, the grid is packed full of prospective lines and there’s even a hint function which kicks in if you take too long to make a move. Likewise, the controls are incredibly simple using the joypad or buttons to select a square and then selecting the direction of the tile you wish to swap with. Even the basic concept of turning all the squares on the grid gold isn’t that tough to grasp, you make a line of 3, the icons disappear and the squares turn gold.
What really does make your head hurt though is what happens next. As the icons on the tiles above the completed line move down to fill the space, invariably you’ll find a whole host of new lines being formed, which in turn disappear and the ones above move down again, forming a chain reaction that’s virtually impossible to predict. The whole thing thus becomes roughly comparable to one of those fiendish traps in the Indiana Jones movies, where the movement of one piece triggers a series of mechanical whirrings leading up to a poison-tipped darts firing from the walls or a massive ball rumbling down a tunnel.
Indeed, take the ball away and this isn’t a random metaphor. The game wears it’s tomb-raiding credentials on it’s sleeve right to an almost copyright challenging point – from the central concept of solving puzzles to discover lost artefacts right down to the Indy-style action font. What’s more the combination of these chain reactions and the constantly ticking clock ensures there’s a more panic-ridden, action-orientated challenge on offer here than in other puzzle games.
Admittedly the initial sense of panic does calm down a little when you start to get the feel for what’s likely to happen and whilst you never quite feel completely in control, you can adopt a progressively more strategic approach. Just as well too as the game grids soon get more taxing offering more complex shapes with hard to reach corner squares. You’ll undoubtedly lose a few of your 5 allotted lives (don’t worry you can accrue more by hitting score targets) in trying to solve these squares but chances are you’ll keep coming back in an attempt to complete the level and reveal more of the current artefact you’re hunting.
Indeed by this point the sense of terror is less about ‘what’s happening next?’ and more about ‘how can I stop playing long enough to eat/sleep/work?’ For, as several million internet players have already discovered, this is without doubt one of the more addictive puzzle titles currently available. We wouldn’t want to be locked in a dusty old crypt with anything else!