Itâ€™s that time of year when shopping for Christmas prezzies can leave you short of cash for the entertainment kitty. So, what to do when the hottest new titles are beyond your means? Come with us as we go bargain hunting on PSN, to find some budget bang for your gaming buck!
We kick off our quest with Jewel Keepers: Easter Island, a recent mini puzzler on PSN. Anyone who has played the Jewel Quest or Bejewelled type games will get the hang of it pretty quickly, although a tutorial would have been mighty handy to explain the properties of â€˜specialâ€™ blocks. The basic aim of the game is to line up three or more matching blocks on a grid and change the background colour to earn a puzzle piece and progress to the next level. A timer bar means you need to think on your feet, and later levels require a fair bit of strategy - as well as an element of luck, to complete. The whole is loosely tied together with a poorly narrated story, with more plot holes than a JJ Abrams movie (you didnâ€™t have a hand in this, did you JJ?).
Controls are simple and intuitive. Five minutes in you will be shifting blocks all over the place without having to think twice. The pace can be quite frenetic at times, and there is no time to catch your breath between levels; however if you do need to grab a snack or dash to the loo you can hit the Start key to pause the game.
One appealing aspect of the game is the â€˜If at first you donâ€™t succeed...â€™ approach. Should you run out of time or moves, you can restart the level at a small points cost. Once completed a level becomes accessible for standalone play, which does add to the replay value. It would have been nice to see more â€˜specialsâ€™ for lining up 5 blocks (no different to a 4 block line-up), and some of the trickier combos.
The graphics probably look quite sharp on the PSP version; however on our wide screen TV the result was less impressive, with grainy backgrounds and some ugly jaggies. Colours were quite vibrant though, and itâ€™s easy to tell the blocks apart. As for audio, sound effects are basic but pleasantâ€¦ with the exception of the harsh, jangling buzz alerting you to an illegal move. Itâ€™s the audio equivalent of being zapped with a cattle prod. Thereâ€™s a single looping soundtrack accompanying the game, although it does alternate between a pair of different themes, and is quite easy on the ears. It never reached the point where we felt compelled to kill the sound (although the option to do so is available).
While the overall feel is perhaps best described as a bit rough around the edges, we have to remember that this is a mini after all, and the price reflects that. For less than the cost of a movie ticket, Jewel Keepers: Easter Island offers a good 5-6 hours of entertainment, and when viewed in that context itâ€™s quite good value. For the puzzle fan itâ€™s definitely worth a look. For those of you whose tastes lie elsewhereâ€¦ watch this space!