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I really enjoy playing solitaire card games on the computer and on my Nintendo DS. I first started playing Jewel Quest Solitaire on a free online gaming site, and on the strength of that I purchased the game for my Nintendo DS.
I paid £12.99 for the game from Amazon's preferred merchant including free delivery. Game and HMV are both offering similar deals online. A few places such as Play.com are charging £14.99, and if you're buying from a catalogue such as Littlewoods or Grattan, you can expect to pay closer to the £20 mark.
Jewel Quest Solitaire was developed by iWin, and published by Avanquest. The game is suitable for anyone over the age of 3 according to the PEGI game rating system.
The game features in the ever popular Quest series of games which includes Jewel Quest Expeditions, and most recently Jewel Quest Mysteries: Curse of the Emerald Tear. As well as on the Nintendo DS, there are games available for Windows based computers including three solitaire titles.
The game menu is straightforward. The main menu shows the options I would expect including access to the main game modes, player profiles and options to change various settings in the game such as sound effects/music and hints.
The levels are organised in two books. The first level has 4 card layouts, the second has 6 card layouts, and from the third level onwards you get 8 card layouts. Each player profile file holds one Full Quest and one Just Cards game, and the game is automatically saved on the layout I am currently solving which is handy if the battery goes on my console.
~Let's do the twist~
As the name suggests, Jewel Quest Solitaire includes the added challenge of a solitaire card game. There are two modes of play in order to solve 114 different card layouts. In typical Jewel Quest fashion, this is an adventure game which attempts to blend jewel swapping with an intriguing storyline, this one is set in the South American jungle. I didn't find the storyline very interesting, so I mainly concentrated on the actual game play.
The Full Quest mode combines the solitaire with the jewel boards and storyline, while Just Cards mode enables me to play solitaire only. In Full Quest the jewel board is displayed on the top DS screen and fills up with jewels and other artifacts as cards are tapped, when the layout has been solved, you progress onto the jewel board mini game.
The basis of the game is Tri-Peaks Solitaire, but if you're expecting an experience like Three Peak Deluxe in TouchMaster think again! The box promises me 'solitaire with a twist' but that is an understatement in my opinion. There are several twists, as this is not the traditional game of solitaire, and it all starts with the cards. There are several suits, they consist of jewels (for example sapphires and rubies), coins, and head carvings, so it's a world away from the traditional four suit card deck that I am accustomed to.
Tri-Peaks Solitaire uses a very simple concept, and it is played on the DS's touch screen. The aim of the game is to clear the cards from the layout by matching cards one rank above or below the active card on the waste pile for example if the active card is a King then you can either play a Queen or an Ace. When I can't play any more cards I just tap the stock to deal a new active card. For each card I tap on, I earn a jewel on the board (as shown on the DS top screen), but in order to turn the squares into gold then I must earn 'swaps' by matching card suits during the layout, and playing the game with as few cards from the stock pile as possible. If I match three or more cards of the same suit, then the squares turn into gold, providing they are on the same row or column. When the jewel board is full I earn gold spaces instead. The jewel board still features in Just Cards mode as you still need to turn the squares into gold by matching three cards or more of the same suit, but the mini game isn't played.
As with the Three Peaks game in TouchMaster, there are wild cards which any card can be played on. The difference is some of them carry special moves, which offers another challenging aspect of the game in my opinion as some of them do throw a spanner in the works.
The layouts are all different, and that adds a further challenging twist to the game, the design of the layouts reminds me very loosely of Mahjongg in the way the cards are arranged on the table. As the game progresses more cards are used in the layouts. I like the way that the developers have varied the cards on the virtual table and stock pile, which I think adds variety to the gameplay as well as increasing difficulty, having more than four suits in some of the layouts also adds a further challenge. I soon realised that this game is very easy to learn but difficult to master as one wrong move can make a difference to the outcome of the game, and it made me think more strategically about which cards to play. If I make a mistake I can undo up to 10 moves per layout attempt, so they are best used wisely.
It took me several attempts to solve some of the layouts especially those that have a large number of cards on the table, and few cards on the stock pile. If after a certain number of consecutive tries that I couldn't solve the layout I was prompted that I could move on to the next level if I wanted to.
~Treading the jewel boards~
This only applies when playing Full Quest mode. At the end of each round of solitaire, I'm taken to the jewel board mini game where I have to turn all the squares into gold using the aforementioned 'swaps' to create chains of three or more jewels (or other artifacts).
The jewel boards are slightly different to the boards found in other Jewel Quest games I've played, as they are not played against the clock. Another difference is that jewels can be swapped even if this doesn't result in a match three, but can be used as a way of getting the jewel board pieces to where I want them. This needs to be done carefully to ensure I don't use up too many swaps. As with the solitaire round, there are challenges along the way, and the boards get harder as the game progresses, through the different shapes. There is the potential to earn a huge bonus depending on how many squares have turned gold, and if I have any swaps remaining. The amount of work I need to do on the jewel board depends on how well I did at solitaire. The jewel board round ends when all the squares have turned gold, or I've been unlucky enough to run out of swaps.
~What's the score?~
My score for the current card layout is shown on the top screen, along with the bonus multiplier bar. This fills up during the game such as matching card suits, or playing long runs of cards without turning over a new one from the stock pile. The multiplier also increases if there are any cards remaining on the stock pile left after the layout has been solved.
I also earn bonuses by playing the jewel board in Full Quest mode. Points are earned for each square turned to gold, and further bonuses are awarded if there are any unused swaps after all the squares are turned into gold. If I've had a good round at solitaire, I haven't needed to make many moves to complete the board. Sometimes I've had a perfect board without making any swaps at all, which results in a huge bonus.
In Just Cards mode I receive a score depending on how many gold spaces are earned on the board. I found that it is much harder to get a high score in this mode as it relies solely on the cards.
~Graphics and sound~
I thought the music soundtrack was very good and suited the game. It changes with each level (or chapter) and it adds an intriguing and mysterious atmosphere. Unusually, for a game, I found some of the pieces of music soothing, and added to the relaxing aspect of playing solitaire.
The graphics on the whole are very good. The cards use a simplistic design like the ones found in Solitaire DS and TouchMaster, where you get the value of the card and a picture representing the suit which makes the cards easier to see on the DS. Jaggies rear their ugly heads when cards are placed on an angle other than a right angle, this makes the value of the cards difficult to read sometimes, for example 6, 5 and 8. However, the cards turn upright when I put the stylus on them.
I really enjoy playing Jewel Quest Solitaire. It is both challenging and addictive, and sometimes a few hours have passed after saying 'just one more go' too many times. The most annoying aspect is when I get one card remaining on the layout and it doesn't match with the last card in the stock pile. The game is especially suited to the Nintendo DS, thanks to the touch screen, and I hope the other two Jewel Quest Solitaire games will be released on this platform at some point.
I think it has great replay value as with any solitaire card game, the cards won't be dealt in the same way twice. The box states there are 684 possible card scenarios, I think it would take a long time to find them all to be honest.
In terms of recommendation, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves solitaire or casual and puzzle games in general. The story may not be exciting for an adult player, but the stars of the show for me are the solitaire and jewel boards. I award the game 4 stars.
Also on Ciao under the same user name
Jewel Quest Solitaire is a card puzzle game with hundreds of levels to play through.
You have a choice at the start if you would like to play the full quest or a shorter faster version. The main difference between the two versions is that there is an extra puzzle between each level on the full quest which adds bonus points to your final score.
Each level on both versions must be finished before moving onto the next, except if you play the level about ten times continuously without completing and it asks you if you would like to skip that level and move to the next. The uncompleted level can be returned to later.
There are about 8 puzzles to each level (books) and there are 8 books. I have been through the first section of books and based on the my score I was moved onto the silver level. I then restarted the whole quest and seem to have different and harder puzzles this time.
The bonus levels on the full quest took me a few goes to understand what I was supposed to do to complete but they are worth having a go if you have the time.
As I am still playing this game my review is a bit open ended but so far I have really enjoyed it and it would be great for a train or car journey and can be plaayed for hours or just a few minutes.
I would recommend this game.