|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: MumboJumbo||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Hot Lava Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 23, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
May 23, 2007 - Publishers know we just can't get enough Bejeweled, and so clone after unoriginal clone continues to be published. 7 Wonders of the Ancient World is one of these puzzlers that you can purchase for your PSP, download to your PC, or pick up in late June for your DS. There is nothing groundbreaking in this title, but it will suffice for a half an hour of mindless entertainment in an airport terminal; if you decide to play it for your PC, then you have entirely too much time on your hands.
7 Wonders of the Ancient World is a Bejeweled clone set in a tour of the ancient Mediterranean. Story mode will have you traveling from renowned city to renowned city, helping local workers and their architect to build one of the ancient wonders. The player is tasked with matching three runes or more in order to breakup the puzzle grid's rock face. As runes are matched and the rocks fall, workers come, collect them, and carry them off to the work site seen in the background. It sounds simple, and it is.
The team at Hot Lava does throw in a couple of curveballs to increase the difficulty, however. You need to clear not only the background blocks, but also the cornerstones, the capstone, and what seems to be the christening papyrus. These objects must be brought all the way from the top to the bottom of the grid before you can pass the level. You cannot swap these pieces for runes. They are immovable by the player, and can only be dropped into place by clearing a path directly below them and letting gravity take over. Unfortunately, the difficulty produced by the keystones is foiled by the ease and frequency of power-ups. There are three power-ups in all, all of which clear multiple blocks in one fell swoop. The Lightning Ball will clear an entire row. The Fire Ball will clear not only a row, but also a column. After using four Power-ups, the Golden Flower will appear, which randomly eliminates anywhere from 15 to 20 blocks. The blocks that the Golden Flower eliminates are inevitably the most crucial ones, making it as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
Should you successfully clear all of the blocks and one of the keystones, you will pass to the next section of quarry. Every quarry will have a slightly different layout and will provide unique challenges in clearing them. Later in the game, locked blocks will appear. Runes must be matched twice in order to break these blocks apart: the first matching will unlock the block, and the second will do the actual breaking of the block. These blocks are significant because you will be working against the clock, and they take twice as long to break. If you run out of time, then you're going to lose a life. If you lose all of your lives, then the game is over and you'll have to reload. After completely constructing a Wonder, you will unlock the next, and try to help those people with their project. If you successfully get through the tour by constructing all of the Wonders, then you will unlock the next level of difficulty. There are three levels of difficulty in all, so you should eventually get to one that will challenge your puzzling abilities.
Other than the main Story Mode, there are two other modes of play from which you can choose. Free Play will have you clearing stages that you have already unlocked in Story mode. These are timed puzzles as well and are good for when you have only a couple of minutes in which to get some quick puzzle action. The final mode that you can select is called Rune Quest; again, you are limited to selecting only those Wonders you have already opened in Story Mode. In Rune Quest, the object changes from the breaking of blocks to the accumulation of specific runes. At the outset of each level, you will be responsible for removing a specific number of particular runes from the puzzle grid. The quicker you can achieve the mission the better, as your best times will be saved and displayed.
This is a very simple game that doesn't provide much challenge. Story mode is decent, as it foments a sense of accomplishment by allowing the player to advance the game by completing the Wonders. Free Play is the same as Story mode, but is devoid of any sense of achievement. Rune Quest does change up gameplay a bit, but is not nearly as rewarding as is Story mode. If you've cleared the Story on all three levels of difficulty, then I guess Rune Quest will be your last option for game longevity. Unfortunately, once you've beaten the game you will undoubtedly move on to a more worthwhile experience; I have.
Graphics are straightforward and nice. The puzzle grid is sharp. The little characters are really cute. Their large noses and contented smiles help establish a lighthearted and whimsical feel to slave labor. Seriously, they are nice little guys and the runes look great. However, this is by no means a game that will have your PSP constantly spinning the media. This is a simple puzzler, and it looks really good.
Sounds are appropriate but non-essential. It is possible to play without any sounds at all and still get full enjoyment out of the game. The music harkens back to ancient days, but is a bit annoying. I turned it off after the second level, but kept the sound FX cranked. The options menu is limited but does allow you to tinker with the music and sound FX levels separately. If I had to sum up the quality of sound in a word, I would say it is competent.
Controls are standard. There is not a whole lot to it. You'll be using the analog stick or D-pad to highlight the rune, and then clicking with X button to select the rune and move it in to place. The game ships for the DS on the 26th of June; the DS will probably be the ideal system for the game as the stylus works as well as the PC's mouse yet will have the portability of the PSP.
I enjoyed this game. It is fun to play, but does not distinguish itself from its competition within its genre. The best part of the game is that it only costs $20. This is one of the cheapest titles for your PSP and would make a decent addition to your mobile gaming library. There are no frills here, and the game is not particularly good; however, there is some entertainment value, and this kind of puzzler has broad appeal. If you're looking for a game that is cheap and that the whole family can enjoy at least for a little while, then 7 Wonders of the Ancient World may be a good choice for you.
CCC Freelance Writer