Based on the hugely successful shareware PC game, Cradle of Rome, Cerasus Media’s new Nintendo DS puzzler, Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome sees players matching up symbols to earn gold, food and building resources in order to rebuild Rome, starting at humble sawmills and working-up to the great Colosseum.
Each level sees you faced with a number of tiles with symbols on them, each symbol representing something distinctly Roman – an amphora, for example. A number of these tiles have a blue background. In order to remove these symbols from the playing field, you must match up three or more of them by switching them around with the DS stylus in a Bejeweled-like fashion. By matching up a symbol over a blue tile, you destroy it. The aim of each level is to destroy all the blue tiles.
Additionally, matching up symbols representing timber or food will also give you those resources as a bonus. For example, matching up three log symbols will grant you building resources. New symbols are constantly flowing in from the top, so there is never an absence of them
But don’t think you can dawdle; an amphora of water on the top screen slowly empties to show your time left. Once you’re out of time, you are forced to restart the level from the beginning, losing all the bonus resources you might have gathered along the way.
After you’ve finished eradicating all the blue tiles, you’ll have a chance to spend your gold and use your resources to construct a number of useful buildings in your city. While there are over one hundred different tile matching levels in the game, there are only five “epochs” from which you can select buildings. Buildings are constructed instantly and you can construct as many as your limited resources allow before the next level commences. Hitting the small ‘?’ button under each building’s summary tells you a bit about the building, its uses in Roman times and a small part of its history.
Disappointingly, you can only erect each building once and its position is automatically determined, making the game feel rather linear and leaving you dissatisfied. On the plus side to this system, however, your city has a wonderful appearance with some obviously skilfully crafted buildings and landscapes on the top screen representing your city in a way that clearly wouldn’t be possible if the player placed the buildings by themselves.
Once you’ve completed the plentiful levels and finished your city, don’t fret, as you can replay the match-three levels as often as you like to beat your time or number of resources gathered. The game remains an addictive and solid puzzler for Nintendo’s portable platform, and while it might not seem worth the £30 retail price, it’s an addictive title that will get you immediately hooked.