Although it bears the Jewel Quest brand, the gem switching match 3 gameplay of its namesake takes something of a backseat here, as first and foremost, Jewel Quest Mysteries is a hidden object game - and a very good one at that. As you may have guessed from the title, there's something of an archaeological theme going on here, with chapters of a written story bookending each sequence of levels, as you set out on an expedition to Egypt, to find the Emerald Tear Jewel Board.
Giving you a varied list of objects to find, from chocolate bars, to robots, with a number of detailed, crisp backgrounds to find them in, each environment is littered with tricky hiding places, and overflowing with details to try and draw your attention away from the objects you're meant to be spotting. With an overview of the level on the top screen, alongside a zoomed in section on the bottom, Jewel Quest Mysteries feels completely natural to play, and incredibly responsive, as you touch the objects as you find them, and slide the screen around to zoom in on different areas of the environment. Compared to other hidden object games we've played in the past, it's also impressive just how well hidden the objects here are, with many of them seemingly forming an intrinsic part of the background. With no way of easily discerning what's an object you're meant to be looking for, and what's part of the background, you'll have a tough challenge on your hands as you hunt the various objects down - but a massively fun one all the same.
Scattered around the levels, along with the objects you're searching for, are a number of jewels, and coins, which you can collect for extra assistance. Collecting the coins lets you press a button which centres your screen on one of the objects you're searching for - which is a God send when the time starts ticking down.
Across each set of levels, you'll have to complete a number of hidden object scenes before moving onto, and completing a puzzle - the only problem is, you're lumbered with a strict time limit, in which you've got to complete the whole set. With 30 minutes to clear several hidden object levels and a puzzle, the time really starts to get tight towards the end, meaning this isn't a game you can afford to take too steadily - which seems to go against the grain of a hidden object game, somewhat. It's a tight time limit at the best of times, and when you've got two minutes to go, and one last chocolate bar to find, you'll really start to feel the pressure.
As we mentioned before, when you finish each set of hidden object levels, the final hurdle you'll have to overcome is a puzzle, which come in two varieties. First, there's the variation on the Jewel Quest match 3 gameplay, where, by switching adjacent jewels around and making rows of three or more jewels of the same colour, you'll destroy the jewels, and turn the tiles behind them gold. Within the time you've got left from the 30 minutes you used completing the hidden object levels, it's up to you to turn the entire grid gold - which is every bit as tricky as it sounds.
However, somewhat disappointingly, there is a chink in Jewel Quest Mysteries armour, and it's one that almost turns an otherwise great game into something of a frustration. If you don't manage to finish the gold, jigsaw style puzzle within the time limit, your game will freeze, and you'll have to turn your DS off, and start from the beginning of the section, doing the hidden object levels all over again. Somewhat disappointingly, it seems that having to redo the section isn't just because the game's frozen, as failing the match 3 puzzle doesn't jam up the game, but also results in you having to play through all of the hidden object puzzles again. As frustrating as that sounds, it isn't usually too bad, as finding the objects is a lot easier the second time round - but it still feels a bit unfair.
In another somewhat unusual twist, when you buy Jewel Quest Mysteries, you aren't just buying the one game, as crammed onto the cartridge is another hidden object game called Mysteryville. Every bit as solid as Jewel Quest Mysteries, but with a little less variation, it almost seems strange that Mysteryville's taken so much of a back seat, as it's certainly a worthy contender in its own right. With an RRP of £24.99, Jewel Quest Mysteries is even a fiver cheaper than most DS games - even if it is a lot more expensive than the iPhone version, which costs practically pennies.
All in all, Jewel Quest Mysteries is one of the strongest hidden object games we've played. Solid, varied, with objects that are incredibly well hidden amongst the background, this is sure to keep you hunting, even as the seconds tick away. Marred only by the price of the iPhone version, and the irritation of having to replay the hidden object levels when you fail a puzzle, this is one of the best hidden object games around.
- Very, very well hidden items.
- Well presented, with an interesting story.
- Two games on the one cartridge!
- Annoying freezing bug.
- Having to replay the hidden object levels when you fail the puzzles.
- Expensive compared to the iPhone version.