Jewel Quest Mysteries: Curse of the Emerald Tear is one of several Jewel Quest games produced and developed by iWin and GSP. The game actually comes with not one, but two games on one DS cartridge, the second appearing as a bonus title called Mysteryville. With a rather large amount of puzzle games on the DS already, does this Jewel Quest title do anything really different to appease gamers?
The game actually starts out with an intriguing cutscene whereby adventurers are sent to locate a mysterious jewel known as the Emerald Tear; the search begins in Egypt. The story from here on is presented in a book format which players are encouraged to read through as they progress and as more chapters are unlocked. The premise isn't actually all that bad, though certain elements do seem a bit dull in places. Unfortunately the way it's presented can be all to easily ignored by players. Mysteryville on the other hand portrays its story in a far different manner by dialogue interaction with various members of a small town. Of course, the story is even more weird in the fact that players are trying to solve a case involving a load of cats mysteriously vanishing.
The story in both games obviously leaves much to be desired as while they are quite in depth, it's glossed over far too easily in its presentation. The gameplay however doesn't remedy this fault either, as while the Jewel Quest puzzles themselves are actually quite entertaining, they are split apart by numerous "Quests". These may initially seem quite different, but they are extremely repetitive and full of faults. They essentially involve picture searches where players are greeted with a list of items and must locate them with the stylus on a picture cluttered with various objects. Aside from the fact some objects are obscure and very difficult to distinguish against the background, there is a penalty introduced for random clicking that reduces the amount of time players have to find the objects.
There are several different backgrounds spanning four different locales, but it doesn't really differentiate the gameplay enough. After a while some objects will be asked for multiple times on a similar screen and simply the gameplay comes down to memory recall. If it wasn't for the fact that later these quests need to be done three times in succession before a jewel board game appears, it might have been a bit more forgivable. It also begs the question why some objects are in fact in Egypt or any other countries visited for that matter, as some fit very much more westernised locations.
The two other puzzles are 'Early Jewel Board' and 'Jewel Quest Puzzle'. The former of the two involves turning all the squares to gold by placing several jewels or coins in the correct locations. Some of these puzzles do present a minor challenge later on but they are realistically very easy as the amount of time given to complete them is far too copious. This also applies to the Jewel Quest Puzzle, although the gameplay is far better as players must connect at least 3 jewels in a row vertically or horizontally, and can only do so by moving one adjacent jewel into a position of three. The same thing applies with turning the tiles to gold to complete the puzzle, and later the shape of the board changes to make doing this a lot more challenging. Also with the addition of jewels encrusted in rock, meaning that players are restricted to trying to get jewels into a specific position as these rocks are unmovable until broken by a connection.
The Jewel Quest Puzzle is actually the most fun element of the game, although it does seem a bit luck based later on with regards to trying to get the final couple of squares. It's actually the one element of the game that doesn't really suffer from becoming too repetitive. Mysteryville on the other hand has none of these puzzles as is solely based on picture searches. These do involve a lot more variation than the Emerald Tear versions, but at the same time they are all too similar and once a player has managed to get through around half of them it starts to get very monotonous.
The specials in Jewel Quest that are used in the picture search, can be upgraded by collecting jewels to spend, but realistically they aren't really worth upgrading. The only one worth investing in is increased time limit, however, the time limit is already extremely forgiving with the amount given to a player in the first place - so again it's rather redundant.
There is a rather nice art style to the game, in terms of the large amount of backgrounds used. They are varied and some are quite nice to look at, however the amount of cluttered objects on top of them are as mentioned before indistinguishable at times. The sound on the other hand is one of the better aspects of the game. The music is very fitting with each locale and scene, and changes throughout. The music starts to suffer from being too repetitive though, as it's heard far too frequently throughout the game.
As far as replay value goes the game will actually take players a while to get through, purely because of the vast amount of picture searches which will eat up a substantial amount of time. However, once complete, aside from playing through Mysteryville there isn't any real reason to return. There are highscores but realistically coming back to do better isn't worth the time.
While Jewel Quest Mysteries: Curse of the Emerald Tear isn't a bad puzzler with regards to the Jewel Quest Puzzle element, the rest of the game is highly repetitive and unchallenging for the time invested into it. The locales are pleasing to look at and the story isn't that bad, but it's far too easy to simply forget the story is even ther. Mysteryville adds to the amount the game has to offer in content, but at the end of the day it's just repeating itself more and more.