If you are one of those Bejeweled-crazed gamers who just can’t get enough of lining up, and consequently obliterating stacks of jewels on a monoplane grid, here’s yet another competent clone for you to hack away at. The DS is already home to the acclaimed RPG-puzzle crossbreed, Puzzle Quest, which took the classic Bejeweled formula and added a wealth of complexities to it. Can 7 Wonders match that level of innovation? Sorry folks, but it doesn’t even try to. This is essentially a streamlined Bejeweled for the DS, which is a damn good thing when you take into account its lightning-quick pace, super-accurate touch sensitivity and straightforward, but highly addictive gem-flicking gameplay.
You play the role of some puzzle god, tasked with rebuilding the 7 ancient wonders of the world. Within a rectangular framework (later assuming more atypical shapes) lie a heap of coloured runes. With a few quick flicks of the stylus, your aim is to swap the positions of neighbouring runes to create sets of three to five runes in a row, hence demolishing them and liberating the tiled stony building blocks that they reside within. These blocks are then sent up to the upper screen where your resource gatherers reside, all geared up to get busy with the building, allowing you to combo points up to brutal high scores should you manage to maintain a fast pace of matching to prevent them from going on strike. It’s Bejeweled on the bottom screen and organised slavery on the top alright.
Each level requires you to break open every resource tile and to recover cornerstones/capstones by allowing them to drop to the bottom of the heap. As you eliminate larger stacks you’ll also receive special lightning, fireball and random-collapse orbs that can be used to target those harder to reach tiles by wiping out entire rows, columns or a geographic selection of runes. As you traverse between each wonder world, from the Great Pyramid of Giza to the Statue of Zeus over at Olympia, you’ll be accompanied by slightly different atmospheric beats geared towards each landmark, as well as some subtle changes in backdrop. Audio-visually, it’s plainer than a vanilla cone.
However, the frameworks that you’ll have to work within mark the key differences between the assorted levels. The confining outlines of some will require a strategic plan to avoid a dynamic stalemate situation where exchanges are made, but a continuous rune-output to satisfy the workers is not met, resulting in a life being lost once the buzzer sounds. Once you’re done with this story mode of sorts, there’s the Rune Quest mode to tackle: a more pure experience where reaching a set quota of specified runes is the sole goal. Apart from that, there’s nothing much else content-wise.
But, does that make 7 Wonders any less of a puzzle gaming experience? Sure, it doesn’t take very long to ‘complete’ the game and the lack of any multiplayer – of any kind – is totally inexcusable. Compared to the likes of Puzzle Quest, it may seem like a step back for the sub-genre; this is clearly more of a budget-game and less of a fully fleshed one. Nevertheless, 7 Wonders is a nifty little gaming card of good-old addictive goodness, and a bargain bin must-have if I ever saw one.