Jewelquest Hands-on

We go searching for treasure in a beta version of this Web-game adaptation.

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Web-to-mobile adaptations have been gaining in popularity recently, spurred to prominence by the emergence of Yahoo Games onto mobile decks and the stunning success of Sorrent's mobile Zuma. Now, I-play is getting in on the action by making a mobile version of iWin's Jewel Quest, which has garnered great success on Shockwave.com. From what we've seen of Jewel Quest mobile, fans of the Web original are probably going to love the mobile version, and those new to the Jewel Quest phenomenon may soon be missing lunches to uncover that last artifact.

Where's Cortez and his team of conquistadores when you need them?
Where's Cortez and his team of conquistadores when you need them?

When you create a new profile and start a new game, Jewel Quest will tell you an amusing little story about an archeologist who's been driven insane by his quest to organize a museum's collection of artifacts. You may very well chuckle at this histrionic bit of faux journal, but you won't be laughing for long, because Jewel Quest isn't likely to be any easier on your own frontal lobe than it was on that poor jerk. You play Jewel Quest on a gridded table filled with Mesoamerican plunder. There are leering red crystal skulls, gemstones of various kinds, and gold coins; you must dispel these by matching up lines of three of a kind.

Here's the tricky bit: You have to do this by switching the goodies around in pairs. You can only switch two jewels that are adjacent to one another, and you can only make the switch if you're going to make a line on the other end. Plus, you can't eliminate all the jewels, because fresh ones will keep dropping in from the top--in fact, that's not even the real object of the game. Instead, you have to make sure that the entirety of the gridded area has been the scene of a jewel elimination, which turns a grid space from beige to gold. Setting off combos and getting rid of massive lines of loot will earn you huge bonuses, but it won't necessarily help you clear the levels, which start off square and quickly morph into all sorts of different shapes. It can be quite a challenge to complete a level before the dragon-shaped timer runs down to zero. Keep it up, thought, and gradually you'll work your way toward the fabled Temple of the Fifth Sun, hopefully reaching it before you go off your nut.

Jewel Quest's slick Flash presentation didn't suffer much degradation in its transition to our test Motorola V600. This is very identifiably the same game; the controls, graphics, and sound were simple enough to begin with to keep the porting process relatively painless. We did notice that the game didn't run quite as smoothly as it does on a Web browser, but the frame rate is still more than adequate, and it will probably continue to improve with more development time.

All in all, Jewel Quest mobile looks and plays a lot like the highly infectious original. If I-play and developer Big Blue Bubble keep banging away at it, there's no reason why the mobile version won't be just as virulently (and sometimes annoyingly) fun. The purveyors of the more popular Web-based games are starting to choose sides for their move to mobile; with its quality work on Jewel Quest, I-play is demonstrating that it has the necessary acumen. We'll have the full review as soon as the game comes out.

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