Reviewed: September 28, 2010
Released: August 18, 2010
7 Wonders II – haven’t I played this game before?|
Oh yes, 7 Wonders II – I remember, I must have reviewed the original 7 Wonders.
It is another Bejeweled clone, but with a storyline…kind of like the Puzzle Quest games, right? But instead of finding treasure or battling it out with spaceships in outer space, we use the blocks to build a series of ancient buildings, right?
I remember this one.
Wait, what did you just say?
It wasn’t me?
What do you mean it wasn’t me?
Well then, what was that game I reviewed?
Oh, it was Cradle of Rome?
I would have sworn that it was this game.
Bejeweled, Puzzle Quest, 7 Wonders, Cradle of Rome, Jewel Quest, Jewel Master, Jewels of the Tropical Lost Island, Treasures of Montezuma. These games and their many offspring deliver the same flavor of addictive match-3 gameplay, with each sporting its own storyline hook to keep you coming back for more. Call it overplayed, overused, or hackneyed – call it what you like, but we all need to come to terms with the fact that until people stop buying into these match-3 puzzle games, that the genre is still a long way away from seeing its final sighting within the gaming world. In fact, I would venture to bet that the Bejeweled-style gameplay just has been cloned more times in the past five years alone than the epic puzzler Tetris has been in its entire 25-plus year existence.
This is the epitome of shovelware folks, but with tried-and-true gameplay like this, it is difficult to avoid addiction.
The nice thing about all of these Bejeweled clones is that after this many takes on the genre, the learning curve is all but non-existent. Within minutes, pretty much any gamer can be swapping tiles and matching colors with the best of them and whatever unique little hook the developer throws in to try to distinguish their product from the others is quickly recognized and understood. Most likely because it has all been done before; immovable blocks, locked tile pieces, stuck jewels – name it and it has been done before. This goes for the subject of this review as there is absolutely nothing – not one thing – in 7 Wonders II that has not been seen or done before in one or more of the other dozens of clones.
So if all this match-3 gameplay has all been seen and done many times over, then what do I think about 7 Wonders II?
The story is pretty basic – you are in charge of building the legendary “Seven Wonders” of the world using the tiles that you collect by playing a match-3 Bejeweled-style game. The act of building comprises little more than touching overlaying grid spaces to incrementally uncover pieces of each location and hopefully uncover one of the many in-game power-ups. These power-ups come in a handful of flavors –some allow gamers to zap entire rows of blocks or target particularly difficult “locked” tiles, other freeze the timer, etc. These powers do come in handy, as the gameplay can get quite heated as the number of tile types increase with the higher difficulty levels and gamers find themselves frantically searching for a match.
Whenever the game calculates that no more matches can be performed, it automatically reshuffles the playfield on the fly, giving gamers a second chance at clearing the level. Gamers can also incite their own playfield shuffles, but only when the shuffle meter has been filled. Obviously, the main objective is to match three or more tiles to clear playfield spaces below. Clearing more than 5 blocks garners a row-clearing power-up tile, and chaining multiple matches in a single move rewards the gamer with a tile that clears both the row and column it is sent to.
But the gameplay is not limited to simply clearing off the playfield, because during the latter third of each gameplay level, a “building block” is dropped into play that must be cleared to the bottom of the board before the game will recognize completion. The timing of the release of this block is quite often its downfall because most the board has typically been well-sifted by that point, leaving gamers to scramble to use power-ups to open areas below the block.
Visually, 7 Wonders II is nothing to write home about, but it certainly gets the job done. The tiles are easy to distinguish from one another, the playfield shapes and sizes vary throughout the gameplay to help keep the gameplay fresh and addictive. As I write this review, I happen to also be reviewing Mumbo Jumbo’s newest Mahjong title, and I will say that the same does not apply in that case – as certain tiles are nearly impossible to distinguish from one another and the playfield is cluttered and distracting. 7 Wonders II’s audio is equally as adequate, delivering a lot of cookie-cutter smashing noises, but really nothing to write home about.
What saves 7 Wonders II in the end is the well-implemented and addictive match-3 gameplay that is sure to have gamers enamored for years to come. It’s hard to do that genre wrong, and 7 Wonders II does a fine job delivering the gameplay on the DS. How do you assign adequate value to a game like 7 Wonders II? It is difficult - 7 Wonders II released with an MSRP of $19.99, technically making it a budget game in the typical $34.99 MSRP DS market. And whether 7 Wonders II is worth $20 all depends on how badly you want another Bejeweled clone.
Obviously, if you own any of the similar titles mentioned earlier in the review you can pretty much pass this one up, as there is really nothing here that you have not seen. Then again, if you are one of the few newbies to the match-3 gameplay, or better yet a true fiend of the games who just can’t get enough – well, 7 Wonders II certainly delivers the exciting gameplay that comes from this genre, and the price is right.