Some side scrollers need only do the same thing as every other side scrolling game – but extremely well – in order to be ridiculously enjoyable. Jewel Master is just such a title, not daring to be particularly different in any way, but doing such a bang-up job of side scrolling entertainment, it has no requirement to reinvent any wheels.
With the title Jewel Master, I’d have been enraged to find there were no jewels present or no opportunities to master them, thankfully both are present in abundance. You see, the mythical land of Mythgard is about to be obliterated by a Demon King, and your character has to utilise (master!) several magic rings (jewels!) in order to defeat said king and his cretins.
Ah, retro gaming – it’s a veritable treasure trove of literal game titles.
Apart from the magic rings themselves – which i’ll get to in a moment – Jewel Master is pretty standard side scrolling fare. The player must run, jump and blast their way through five themed levels, each culminating in a boss fight, the final of which is against the Demon King himself. The monsters come from all directions, vary in strength and are honestly quite bizarre at times. Orcs I get, but jellyfish? Thankfully, the variety of backgrounds, monsters and the use of steps to create multiple levels all adds decent variety to keep the player going. There are some lovely touches of parallax scrolling in the levels too.
Another area where Jewel Master throws in some variety are in the spells the player uses to vanquish their enemies. This is where the magic rings mentioned earlier make a welcome appearance. The player aquires all manner of different magic rings (a maximum of two can be worn on each hand) and different combinations of rings create different offensive and defensive spells to use. You start with a ‘fire’ ring on your left hand which allows a flame-themed melee strike, but if you add a ‘speed’ ring to the same hand, you’ll be lashing out with fireballs in no time.
The various rings add some variety and fun to the game, but the potential for complexity and strategy that these layered powers could have brought was an opportunity strangely avoided by the developers. Some enemies are more or less susceptible to different ring powers, but that’s it. I suppose you could argue that complexity and strategy don’t have much place in a side scrolling action game, but i’d disagree with you before whacking you over the head with a C64 tape deck.
Jewel master is fun, of that there’s no doubt, so on that basis alone it’s worth a 3 out of 5, but the richness that’s not quite present keeps it from any kind of lofty score. The music too, which I’ve read elsewhere was highly regarded, didn’t really set my world on fire.
Maybe I just wasn’t wearing the right ring?
Score: 3 out of 5