Jewel Quest Solitaire
It’s not often you see gaming crossovers, but with Jewel Quest Solitaire, developer iWin takes the age-old card game and merges it with Jewel Quest, their fiendishly addictive puzzle series. For those unfamiliar, Jewel Quest has you matching three or more gems, making their tiles disappear and so on. Solitaire has… well, it’s Solitaire. The variant used in JQS is Three Peaks, where the cards are laid out in three peaks (or in the case of the game, a variety of shapes) and must be cleared from play. In JQS, these cards aren’t divided into the usual suits; instead they’re marked by coloured jewels. Playing a card deposits the relevant jewel into a grid above, and lining up three or more cards of the same colour turns the grid squares gold. At first it’s a little complicated to balance everything, and often with the random nature of the cards it’s impossible to spend too much time stacking up cards of the same colour without messing up your hand, but it adds an extra strategic depth to a traditional game. Given that you can only play a card directly higher or lower than the card in play, structuring your jewel board is more down to luck than anything else – as is this form of solitaire in general – which can lead to the occasional frustrating restart.
Jewel Quest Solitaire has two main modes of play. ‘Just Cards’, as the name might suggest, is just the cards without the post-game Jewel Quest puzzle. ‘Just Cards’ lets you play through a variety of card layouts, focusing on achieving a high score for each one. Any layout can be replayed to beat your personal best and while the jewel grid does add to your score, you can just as easily ignore it and have fun with a colourful variant of Solitaire.
‘Full Quest’ mode adds something of a storyline to the proceedings, which in practise equates to a line of text between puzzles that serve only to fulfil some kind of ‘quest’ requirement. It doesn’t detract from the game in any way; it’s just a little pointless. ‘Full Quest’ mode is basically exactly the same as ‘Just Cards’, only after each card layout is complete you get to play a game of Jewel Quest; matching up 3 or more jewels on grids of various shapes, aiming to turn every square gold. You only have a limited number of moves to do this (earned via the Solitaire portion) and the more gold squares you end up with, the higher your score. Like ‘Just Cards’, the focus isn’t really on completing the story but working to beat your personal best, so a full understanding of every aspect – from card stacking to jewel switching – will pay off. Thankfully by simply playing the game, it’s easy to pick up all the nuances to maximise your score.
The fact that Jewel Quest Solitaire is handheld is both its biggest asset and its main flaw. It’s a quick-fix game so being able to play it on the go is perfect, and the touch screen functionality really works well. The small screen, however, leads to the cards being distorted on certain layouts, especially when any cards are positioned diagonally. Usually it just looks plain ugly, but sometimes the distortion actually obscures the card’s identity, making sixes look like queens and whathaveyou. Luckily most layouts are fairly sensible, but the odd few can look jarringly unpleasant.
If you’re a huge fan of Jewel Quest, Solitaire or both, and long to play it on long journeys then Jewel Quest Solitaire couldn’t be more perfect. If, however, you’re the kind of handheld gamer who sits at home with their DS, then the cheaper, prettier PC version offers far better value for money.
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