Jewels II: The Ultimate Challenge

Developer:  Bardworks
Publisher:  H+a/Dreamcatcher
Year Released:  1998

Review by Gordon Aplin (October, 1999)
jewel.jpgIt should come as no surprise that this game is the sequel to Jewels of the Oracle and I believe it was originally released as Gems of Darkness in 1998 or thereabouts. Like its predecessor it consists of a series of challenges in the form of abstract logic puzzles. Once more the premise is that you are an archaeologist exploring the remnants of a lost pre-Sumerian civilisation and you must solve 24 puzzles to gain access to the final challenge which will reveal the hidden treasure of Kavi. The leader of the expedition is Professor Bhandam who outlines what you must do and provides you with a copy of his journal which contains clues to solving the puzzles.

The style of the puzzles will be instantly familiar to those who have played the earlier game as many are simply variations on a theme and involve things like recognising patterns and shapes, picture puzzles, rotating concentric rings, etc. You can set the difficulty level (easy or hard) for each puzzle at any time except when the puzzle is 'open'. Similarly, you can also save your game at any time except when attempting a puzzle. If you turn away from a puzzle or access the Professor's journal for a hint it will reset, or you can reset it yourself if you make an irrecoverable mistake. Successful completion of each puzzle, regardless of difficulty setting, will gain you a gem/token and you need to collect all 24 before you can attempt the final puzzle.

In this first-person perspective game you can navigate through the twists and turns of the dusty archaeological site seeking out rooms containing the puzzle devices, or you can jump straight to the rooms by selecting them from your map which appears at the top of the screen, along with the journal and token box. As the 'story' and exploration aren't all that crucial in this game I really appreciated the map as it saved a lot of time and made it easy to return to those puzzles I was still working on or to those I wished to replay. Having said that, you may prefer to take the long route as the graphics, music and sound effects all contribute greatly to the atmosphere. Many of the rooms also contain a 'clickable' hotspot that rewards you with a small animation or sometimes a clue to a puzzle.

There are three 'floors' to explore each with eight puzzle devices, and each floor is contained on a separate CD so to avoid unnecessary disk swapping it is recommended that you complete all the puzzles on one level before travelling to the next. Nevertheless, as it is necessary to begin the game from the first disk each time you start, a certain amount of disk swapping is unavoidable once you commence on the second and third floors.

Jewels II is ideal for logic puzzle enthusiasts and I enjoyed completing each challenge though I must admit to peeking at the Professor's journal once or twice, and to finishing a few of the puzzles on easy mode :) . If you use the journal judiciously and don't read too far it won't completely spoil the fun. Better still, play this one along with a friend - two heads are definitely better than one when it comes to solving these brain teasers! rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1999. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
Win3.1x/Win95, Pentium,16MB RAM, 16MB hard disk space, 640x480 Video (16bit colour) 2xCD ROM, 8bit Soundblaster or compatible, mouse.
Macintosh System 7.5 or later, 68040, 16 MB RAM, 640x480 Video (Thousands of colours) 2xCD ROM.