Jewel Towers Deluxe Review

Jewel Towers Deluxe Review

Mar 14, 2012

I think whether or not a game needs a plot is best determined on a case by case basis. Bejeweled has no story but is still wildly popular. But sometimes, a story or theme can help to revitalize a tried and true idea. In the case of Jewel Towers Deluxe it is my guess that this is the reason behind taking the classic jewel-matching game and giving it an Indiana Jones-esque story. But guess what, it works.

Jewel Towers Deluxe is the story of a grizzled adventurer on a quest to steal stones from an ancient, vaguely Aztec culture. There is a spirit guarding the stones, trying to prevent him from collecting them all. Each level assigns a number of each type of stone to be collected, and jewels must be collect in groups of three or more. Furthermore there is a limit to the number of moves that can be made during each level. Exceeding that limit means game over.

The game is interesting in that rather than swapping two adjacent stones, users rotate groups of three highlighted stones. This allows stone to be adjusted multiple times across the board, sometimes even moved from one end to the other to achieve a match. There obstacles in the form of rocks that can’t be matched, or jewels trapped in settings. At each level the game board changes shape for variety and greater challenge. Earning points also lets users buy power-ups in the form of spells. Spells are associated with specific jewels and can be activated when they specific jewel is captured on the board.

The adventurer theme is kind of cool because it adds a mild sense of drama that Bejeweled lacked. The Aztec mummy both taunts and guides users, and the colour scheme of the game gives it a strangely successful crypt-feel. I like the idea of rotating three stones at once, as it reminds me of one of my favourite games, Hexic. I find myself returning to this game fairly frequently.

Unfortunately it has horrendous control issues. The mechanics of moving the jewels requires that the highlighted bracket be moved users tapping it across the field. I should be able to tap anywhere on the board to highlight a bracket, instead of this time consuming process. Even more frustrating, the responsiveness of the game board is not great either and it can take multiple taps to move the bracket even one space. This is especially bad at the edges of the game board where it doesn’t seem to register input at all.

It needs a lot of work, and I urge the developers to put out some improvements soon. The game is fun, but frustration should come from a challenging game, not one that is physically difficult to use.

Triple Town Review

Triple Town Review

Feb 2, 2012

There are some words I don’t like to throw around lightly, in case it devalues them. The example I’m thinking of is “addictive”. There are a lot of games that are fun, but the list of games that I physically can’t put down is not long. But some games really are so entrancing that they consume my thoughts even when I’m not playing them. And Triple Town is one of them.

The makers of Triple Town, Spry Fox, have done a brilliant job of combining three gaming aspects that are sure-fire draws: pattern-completion, building, and strategy. It’s called Triple Town because items on the game field must be matched in threes. Place three identical items in proximity of each other and they combine to make a new item of a higher class. Three swatches of grass become a bush. Three bushes become a tree. Three trees become a hut, and three huts become a cottage. I haven’t found out yet what three cottages might become because it is much harder than I expected to build up the item levels without filling the gamespace too quickly. Each game session ends when the gamespace is completely filled with items and there are no more moves to be made. And to make things more complicated there are opponents in the way -bears!- slowing down progress. The bears are adorable and when I saw them in the game logo I assumed that they’d be friendly. But once they are in play, they roam around the board and growl menacingly at the tiny villagers that dare poke their heads out of the huts. Luckily the bears can be of some use. Trap a bear and it becomes a gravestone. Three gravestones become a church, three churches become a cathedral, and three cathedrals become treasure.

There are some hitches though. Items appear for placement in a seemingly random order (think Tetris pieces), and can be difficult to plan around. As well, items can only be placed so long as there some in queue. Play too fast and the queue empties, halting the game. The queue can refill over time, or additional items/turns can be purchased with the in-game coins. This is still maddening as the game really does cast a hypnotic spell that is painful to have interrupted.

It’s a very simple concept but beautifully executed. Pattern-completion is inherently appealing to the human psyche, and the little villages are a joy to create and behold. As items are placed the points rack up and the quest to achieve higher points ranking never ends. I’ve made it to the second level of points only a few times, and I really want to get to level three. Every time I’m playing and have to stop (to eat, sleep, work) I’m sad. And I’ve fallen asleep more than once dreaming about placing some trees in the perfect place.

There is a pretty huge problem with Triple Town though, and it seems to be new as of the last update. The game freezes a lot and badly. Nearly every single time I’ve opened it to play it has frozen irreparably. Twice it has spontaneously re-started my phone completely. It’s a pretty serious problem that affects more than just my enjoyment of the game.