Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome
Name: Cradle of Rome
Platform: DS, PC, Wii (Reviewed on Wii)
When puzzle game Bejeweled hit web browsers in 2001, no one expected such a simple puzzle game to become an addictive phenomenon. Since then, countless clones of the match-three puzzler have hit the web, consoles, and handhelds. Feeling that the market wasn’t quite crowded enough, Destineer recently released Cradle of Rome, another in the “match three items” vein of puzzle games, for the Wii. Previously a DS and PC title, the Wii version uses the remote to employ familiar puzzle tactics. While Cradle of Rome does use some new ideas, and the gameplay is as addictive as ever, I can’t help but wonder if gamers will be willing to empty their wallets for a game that’s basically already been done.
Like Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, Cradle of Rome attempts to build on a simple puzzle formula by adding more diverse goals to the game. In Cradle of Rome, the object is to build up the Roman Empire, starting as a simple peasant and eventually unlocking buildings, workers, and other items. You unlock these by earning gold in the puzzles, and the more you buy, the higher your ranking becomes. There’s no real storyline or interactivity with the things you buy, but it does give you something to work towards, which is interesting.
Changes have been made to the actual puzzle portion of the game as well. While it’s true that matching three items is the backbone of the gameplay, the actual goal of each level is to clear blue tiles by eliminating the objects within. As the game goes on, more and more obstacles will stand in your way, but you will also be given power-ups to assist you. There’s the hammer, which can break any tile, or the bomb, which blows up a handful of squares and the items within, as well as a handful of other helpful tools. These additions help shake things up and add a little variety to the gameplay, though they don’t really hide the fact that it’s still just a simple puzzle game.
The controls are extremely simple, as they should be, and involve simple points and clicks of the Wii remote. It’s a nice enough looking game, for a puzzler, but you’ll be so busy scanning tiles for matches that you won’t really be paying attention to the background of each level. The music, however, stood out as being catchy, and was a nice accompaniment to the gameplay. All in all, Cradle of Rome is definitely a polished game, and everything works as it should.
If Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords has taught us anything, it is that there is room in the market for a puzzle game to build on the Bejeweled concept. However, while Cradle of Rome does have some unique additions to the formula, it’s not quite enough to make it really stand out. If Destineer had just added a little something extra, like a fun multiplayer mode or a better incentive to build up the Roman Empire, it would have been easy to recommend, especially at the budget price of twenty dollars. That being said, it can be quite addictive, and will have you saying “just one more level” over and over again.