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DS  header logo

Jewels of the Tropical Lost Island


For: DS

Avast ye scurvy dogs, match-three puzzling, ho!

Product: Jewels of the Tropical Lost Island | Publisher: City Interactive | Format: DS | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Jewels of the Tropical Lost Island DS, thumbnail 1
Ah, pirates. They're one gaming theme that it's impossible to get bored of. Along with ninjas, gangsters, and zombies.

Ahem.

Thankfully, despite its Jack Sparrow-like leading man, Jewels of the Tropical Lost Island keeps the nautical tedium to a minimum. It simply uses the pirate theme as a backdrop to a solidly made and infuriatingly addictive puzzler.

Finding your sea legs


Anyone who's played Bejeweled will be familiar with the kind of match-three action on offer here. You're given a grid full of items, and by switching any two adjacent squares you have to make matching rows of three.

Once a match is made, you score some points, the matched items disappear, and more items drop from the top of the screen to fill their place. It's simple, rewarding, and almost impossible to put down once you've started.

Of course, this isn't just a match-three puzzle game. It's a pirate-themed match-three puzzle game. And to that end, there's an overarching Story mode, too.

You don the buckled shoes of the aforementioned Johnny Depp wannabe as he scours the ocean waves in search of treasure, infamy, and the elusive Blue Beard. Mercifully, all this adds up to little more than a framing device, feeding you one off challenges and special conditions that ramp up in difficulty as you sail from one island to the next.

Hidden depths

Whether escaping sea monsters or battling the Spanish Armada, the sea-faring challenges never deviate far from the classic match-three formula. Some ask you to only match one kind of item, while others introduce unbreakable blocks that will only disappear if you make a match in an adjacent square.

Despite its hundred or so levels, it's not the Story mode that will keep you coming back, but the game's potential for high score-happy perfectionist play.

Once you have a grasp of the game's mechanics you're able to plan ahead. Using the ensuing avalanche of items whenever you make a match, it's possible to trigger lengthy chain combos that send your score rocketing.

Factor in the often strict time limits and the compulsion to beat your last record is irresistible.

Scurvy

Sadly, it's not all plain sailing. Though much more playable than other recent City Interactive titles like Vampire Moon: Mystery of the Hidden Sun, this game is still far from perfect.

The most glaring flaw is the simple lack of originality. Jewels of the Tropical Lost Island is mechanically almost identical to PopCap's Bejeweled, no matter how much timber-shivering text you insert between levels.

With that in mind, it's hard to justify the average £20 asking price for this game. Especially when Bejeweled and its army of clones are readily available and much, much cheaper on XBLA, the App Store, and countless Flash game sites.

There's no multiplayer connectivity, either, nor the opportunity to share your high-scores online. This not only scuppers the game's competitive replay value but seems to willingly hand the advantage to its cheaper, better known competitors.

Yargh or Nargh?

Ultimately, there's nothing wrong with Jewels of the Tropical Lost Island. It's simple, hugely addictive, and the Story mode introduces enough new twists on matching-three to keep you going.

It's just questionable whether themed challenges and a story about pirates justify the price.
 
Jewels of the Tropical Lost Island
Reviewer photo
Richard Meads | 15 February 2011
Addictive, fun puzzling that's right at home on DS. Sadly, lack of originality lets it down
 
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