Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome 2 Nintendo DS Review

Article first published as Nintendo DS Review: Jewel Masters: Cradle of Rome 2 on Blogcritics.

A couple of months ago at the L.A. Games Conference, Jack Buser Senior Director for PlayStation Digital Platforms introduced the new Playstation Mobile suite.  Basically a development group to develop and port android apps over to Sony’s Playstation Vita and while this helps get games on Sony’s new handheld console, it really doesn’t do much mobile gamers.  Actually, it’s another path to what’s wrong with handheld gaming and another nail in the coffin of Sony and Nintendo’s portable consoles.  Cradle of Rome 2 on the Nintendo DS and 3DS is a great example of what is likely the net result of Playstation Mobile.

Cradle of Rome 2 is a match three puzzle game like many of the other Bejeweled type games out there.  Many of them you can get for free on your phone.  Rising Star Games’ latest offering in the Jewel Master series does offer some new wrinkles but, the core gameplay is the same as many cheaper or even free offerings for a smart phone.  Games like this do little to make commuters or other mobile gamers want to carry around yet another piece of hardware.  If Nintendo and Sony continue to license this type of casual fare on their consoles, they are also accelerating their own obsolescence.

All of that being said and despite some technical issues, Cradle of Rome 2 isn’t a terrible game.  The icon matching game does boast 100 levels but does not include any sort of multiplayer.  The main story mode lets you rebuild Rome through seven historical periods in a quest to become Caesar.  Your performance in the puzzles awards you resources that can be used to purchase buildings.  These are then assembled by executing a sliding puzzle within a time limit to construct and place the building itself.  This portion of the game is where players will likely notice the 3DS enhancements.

If Jewel Masters: Cradle of Rome 2 sounds easy, it’s really not.  Cradle of Rome adds a lot of obstacles to your matching.  Firstly, it’s timed and besides having to do the puzzle over again if you don’t complete it, your resource rewards also decrease as time passes.  There is no penalty however, for failing and having to redo the puzzle, except for your time.  The shape of the puzzles and physic of the tiles will also force players to rethink moves.  The most frustrating part of choosing your move is how small the squares are, which on a standard DS, isn’t much larger than the tip of the stylus.  Working your way to the bottom by switching tiles can be especially frustrating when the stylus grabs and flips an incorrect adjacent tile.

Another tough obstacle Cradle of Rome 2 utilizes to slow you down, is that it chains up squares in increasingly large blocks.  Luckily, the game also lets players earn power ups.  The first is a wild card that you can earn in the puzzle itself that will match whatever sequence you move it to.  The others are tools, like a hammer that can break those pesky locks.  The tools which can be drug to particular problem area are however on use timers.  With the number of levels, don’t expect to be able to go breezing through the game.

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