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Jewel Master: Cradle of Egypt 2 (DS) artwork

Jewel Master: Cradle of Egypt 2 (DS) review


"Rather than pairing up squares for points, as you do in Bejeweled, you use the stylus to group symbols in order to clear colored tiles within a given time limit. Matching specific symbols, such as tomatoes or gold coins, earns you resources, which you receive upon level completion. These resources enable you to erect a number of historical Egyptian buildings, each of which is accompanied by a little historical factoid about that particular structure’s function in society at that time."



There's nothing overly “magical” about Cradle of Egypt 2. Boiled down, it's just another variation on the timeless match-3 puzzle classic, Bejeweled. Your goal is to line up three or more gems to clear a stage. However, like any other variation on an old staple, Cradle of Egypt 2 tweaks the mechanics just enough to keep things interesting.

Rather than pairing up squares for points, as you do in Bejeweled, you use the stylus to group symbols in order to clear colored tiles within a given time limit. Matching specific symbols, such as tomatoes or gold coins, earns you resources, which you receive upon level completion. These resources enable you to erect a number of historical Egyptian buildings, each of which is accompanied by a little historical factoid about that particular structure’s function in society at that time.

The game’s 100 levels are divided into five stages (called epochs in this series), but you don’t have to beat a set number of levels to progress to the next era. Instead, you must construct all four buildings native to each period, which requires you to collect an ever-increasing amount of resources. Failure to collect enough resources by game’s end could lead to your inability to construct the final structure. If you’re a perfectionist, this means you’ll be stuck replaying an epoch to try and do better.

Returning Egypt to its former glory presents several challenges beyond just strategic resource management. The time limit between levels may never really change, but the difficulty certainly does. The first few stages will find you destroying only a handful of tiles, but as your civilization advances, you'll often have to clear the whole board. Additionally, tricky level design forces you to carefully place your pieces to clear tough corners that only have one accessible approach. Obstacles such as chains and blocks of ice require specific matching to remove, as well. Some stages drop skulls from the ceiling, which create more colored tiles when paired.

Of course, you won't have to rely entirely on skill and luck to win. Bonuses become available after you raise their respective structures. To activate the bonuses, you have to first charge them by matching their icons until the bar becomes full. The bomb is an especially handy bonus as it destroys a 3x3 square, heedless of the obstacle, provided only a single grouping would ordinarily be required to clear it. If more than one match should otherwise be required, the bomb will only bust it down one level. Another helpful power-up is the hourglass, which grants you extra time. Play carefully and you can use it to artificially extend the time you are allotted to complete a level two or three times before the clock finally runs out. While they’re not strictly bonus items, tokens can be found by particularly skilled players. They’re only available once five or more pieces are matched. When pressed upon or moved elsewhere, those tokens destroy a tile in each cardinal direction.

The game’s overall setup definitely makes for a challenging puzzler, but only if you're completely new to the series. If you've played the original Cradle of Egypt, you probably won't find the sequel especially unique. The controls remain untouched and the strategies that will allow you to win are the same, as is the general concept. The only real differences between the two games are the bonuses, buildings, and unlockable trophies. Even the three game modes are no different. Tourney mode allows you to replay each of the levels completed in story mode with the added challenge of winning either a gold, silver or bronze medal (depending on how quickly you win). Blitz mode only becomes accessible after you complete the game, and functions as a time trial mode where you must try and complete the whole game within a specific time frame.

In addition to the lack of significant variation, Cradle of Egypt 2 is hampered by its own genre. This may seem unfair, but the fact of the matter is that extremely lengthy sessions of the game grow tiresome. After a while, levels blur together as play becomes overly repetitive. Even the sliding puzzle mini-games that break up each construction session don't do enough to keep you engaged after a few hours. The single soundtrack, while easily ignored in short bursts, soon turns into an earworm. The game fares best when played briefly, perhaps during commercials or while you are waiting for the bus. Those gamers looking for an experience that lends itself to lengthy gaming sessions would best turn elsewhere.

That’s not to say Cradle of Egypt 2 is a bad game. It simply doesn't add anything fresh to the genre. If you're new to the franchise, by all means check it out. You'll certainly enjoy the challenge while it lasts. If you are a veteran of the series and just want to see the minor tweaks made in this installment, then you may also wish to have a look. Just don't expect to find any drastically exciting experiences. You won't get any.

Rating: 6/10

wolfqueen001's avatar
Freelance review by Leslie Paul (December 05, 2012)

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