Reviewed: October 9, 2007
Released: September 18, 2007
Mumbo Jumbo and Hot Lava’s 7 Wonders of the Ancient World is yet another take on the tried-and-true Bejeweled formula. It, in fact, plays almost identically to the popular puzzler Jewel Quest – but though it brings very little innovation to the table, 7 Wonders still manages to be a highly playable and addictive Bejeweled clone for the Nintendo DS.
7 Wonders of the Ancient World is a puzzle game that – like Bejeweled, Jewel Quest, and Puzzle Quest – revolves around the deceptively simple task of clearing matching symbols from a game board by swapping adjacent symbols and connecting three or more of the same symbol together. If you’ve played Jewel Quest, you’ll find that 7 Wonders plays very much like a carbon copy of its archaeological-adventure-themed cousin, with very few innovative features introduced on top of what we’ve already seen as far as this type of puzzle game goes.
The aim of the game in 7 Wonders is to build the seven wonders of the ancient world by solving a number of puzzle boards. There are a handful of levels per wonder, and the goal of each level is the same: to destroy all the game board tiles by clearing symbols (referred to as runes in this game) located directly over the tiles. As you progress through the game and the difficulty level increases, more rune types are introduced, and the shapes of the game boards become more irregular, making the task of tile-clearing a more challenging one. Later on in the game, you may even have to match runes multiple times over a tile before it will clear.
To build each wonder, you will also have to clear enough runes to allow special building blocks (which cannot be switched with adjacent symbols) to drop to the bottom of the board. There is at least one of these blocks per level in the game. In the normal game mode, both the game board tiles and special blocks must be cleared before the timer runs out in order to complete a given level.
Luckily, you can make your job easier by earning three different power-ups. Four matching runes gives you a Lightning Ball (which clears one entire horizontal row), five matching runes gives you a Fire Ball (which clears both horizontally and vertically), and the use of four Lightning and/or Fire Balls gives you a Golden Flower that randomly removes 15-20 runes from the board.
That’s about all there is to 7 Wonders, though as soon as you complete at least one level in the normal Story mode, you will also receive access to the Free Play mode (which allows you to play any level you’ve already played in Story mode, though it’s still timed) and the Rune Quest mode (which involves clearing a certain number of particular runes per level). Probably to the disappointment of gamers who enjoy a more relaxed puzzle-solving environment, there does not appear to be a free play mode that is not timed.
Most unfortunately, though, any semblance of multiplayer play is conspicuously missing from this puzzle game that could have certainly benefited much from both multiplayer cooperative and one-on-one play. For a DS puzzle game, especially, that should have been a no-brainer.
That said, despite its flaws, 7 Wonders is certainly competent, and it still manages to be an addictive Bejeweled-style puzzle game. The stylus interface is intuitive, and all the basic mechanics are there. It just lacks the additional creative twists and forethought that have made some of the other clones stand out from the crowd.
7 Wonders’ graphics are a mixture of simplistic and brightly colored 2D sprites and static 3D backdrops that vary slightly from level to level. They’re pleasant enough to look at, especially the visuals depicting the wonders being built, but they’re also on the pedestrian side, as far as DS graphics go. The rune pieces on the game board are differently colored and shaped, but they somehow don’t bear as much contrast from each other as the game pieces you may have seen in other Bejeweled clones, making patterns a tad bit more difficult to spot.
The audio portion of the game isn’t bad, but it’s also a bit limited. The Mediterranean-inspired background music is upbeat and sometimes even catchy, but there are only a scant handful of different tracks that can become repetitive after seven wonders’ (plus a final eighth level’s) worth of the same music. The sound effects are appropriate, but vanilla.
At the full retail price of $29.99, I’d probably pass on this title, since there are other similar puzzle games on the DS for the same price that might prove a better value, especially since some of the competitors include multiplayer capability. If you should find this sitting around in the bargain bin, though, it could be worth picking up if you’re craving a puzzle title of its ilk, or if you’re a parent interested in finding a puzzle game for your child that will simultaneously impart some educational facts about ancient historical landmarks.
A competent rehash of the Bejeweled formula, 7 Wonders of the Ancient World delivers a classic puzzle experience, but it doesn’t stray from the beaten path. If you enjoy Bejeweled and its kin, you’d probably also enjoy 7 Wonders for the same style of gameplay and challenge, as long as you don’t mind the lack of ingenuity or multiplayer modes.