Jewel Master: Egypt is a fun and highly addictive tile matching game and I've now wasted many hours playing it over the last few weeks. If you've played any jewel matching game like Bejeweled or Columns, you'll be right at home here. The board is filled with different symbol tiles (gold coin, blue rings, figs, flower, logs of wood, etc). Some squares are painted blue, and the objective is to get rid of all of these to uncover a scarab beetle, then clear a path for it to drop off the screen, all before time runs out (represented by a water jug on the top screen).
But instead of arranging pieces that fall from the sky, you swap tiles with neighboring squares. A tile can be slid sideways or vertically. If no match is made, the tiles slide back to their original place. Connect 3 or more of the same tiles and they'll shatter, causing any tiles above it to avalanche down, and new tiles to appear to fill any empty spaces. Chain reactions are a lot of fun to see.
Besides the goal of clearing each individual level, the bigger objective is to build up your civilization. Each tile represents 1 of three resources: food, building materials, or gold. Collect enough of each and you can buy the unlockable item bonus of each age (resource upgrades, or magic tiles). When you've bought all 4, you progress to the next era.
The levels get harder and harder as you go on. Each one has a different shape, making the flow of tiles difficult and removing the beetle very hard in some levels. Some tiles are chained up (or double chained) and cannot be moved. You have to make a match first to break the chain before the tile is freed. Each level will have squares of 1 magic type (dynamite, water refill, green potion (removes all of the same kind of tile), lightning (removes 20 random), purple shuffle orbs, etc) which fills up a meter. When it's full, you can use the item. The game is very very hard after I'd say about level 20. There are 100 levels in all. Be prepared to retry many levels over and over until you get lucky. The good thing is that unused magic items and meters carry over from retries and previous levels.
My complaints: the timer is on the top screen, requiring you to look up at it. The "Relax Mode" isn't very relaxing. It lets you play any previously completed leave and it's still timed. Also, when double chained, some of the tiles are a bit hard to identify.
This is a very fun and challenging game suitable for all experience levels and makes a great gift for puzzle freaks. Highly recommended for puzzle fans and a great way to waste some time! The 100 levels will keep you busy for many many hours.
UPDATE 1/10/10: Upon beating level 100, I was 50 coins short of being able to buy the last civilization upgrade. The game said I failed to build my empire and kicked me out to the main menu, where I could replay the last dynasty (5), starting me back at level 81 and taking away all my coins and upgrades for this dynasty. I am taking 2 stars off my rating because of this harsh punishment after having invested many hours playing. This should not have been designed this way. I have to play 19 levels again if I want to try to beat the game again. The levels were already frustratingly hard to beat the first time around.
NO LONGER RECOMMENDED!