Even though Jewels of the Oracle was one of the first puzzle games to be released following the incredible success of Myst, it stands on it's own as a worthy entry into the puzzle gaming genre. With an interesting historic perspective and motif used as a backdrop to the game and a nice 3-D environment to roam around in, the game offers a well done visual package. The story centers on the ancient peoples who populated the rich Fertile Crescent (pre-Sumerian) and pursued excellence through the deductive processes of the mind rather than physical prowess. To this end, they established a training center where anyone could hone their skills of logic and reason. Successful participants in the Oracle's domain went on to greatness while those who failed, as legend has it, were lost forever.
There are about two dozen puzzles in Jewels of the Oracle that range from easy to very difficult. A nice feature included by the game designers is the ability to get to any of the puzzles without having to solve the one before it. This non-linear approach goes a long way toward making this game more enjoyable than those frustrating games of the genre that require each puzzle to be solved before the next one opens up. The game combines both old logic puzzles that have been around awhile with a handful of new and refreshing ones that are quite innovative. Most puzzles are single screen and revolve around logic and reasoning. The designers, to their credit, have stayed away from those irritating puzzles requiring more luck than thought to solve. There is minimal exploring in the underground chamber but you will need to visit various rooms that branch off from the initial chamber and movement, although not an integral part of the game, can be a bit choppy and slow at times. In fact, this slowness is one of the more serious flaws in the game, but fortunately the game includes the option to turn off the walking mode and rely on a "Stills Mode" (basically turning off the video segments). The background art and 3-D environment is suitably done in ancient civilization themes and draws from Sumerian, Mesopotamian and Egyptian artifacts and culture. The music is mood-enhancing and fits well with the atmosphere of the game.
One feature that would have improved the game a great deal would have been the ability to save the game during a puzzle-solving segment. Some of the more difficult puzzles can take a couple of hours to solve and, unfortunately, making a wrong turn or an unrecoverable logic mistake will cause you to have to begin again. Having a save capability would have eased this frustration. A major gripe with the game is the absolutely terrible manual as it does nothing to explain what little action there is to do in the game (like taking a jewel back to the Oracle's room). All things considered, though, Jewels of the Oracle is a great diversion and should appeal to most puzzle fans.
Graphics: Fairly impressive. The artwork is terrific and captures the mood of the era nicely. The movement interface could use work but overall the animations and 3D effects are well done.
Sound: Music is very appropriate to the mood of the game but the sound effects and speech (of the Oracle) is nothing special.
Enjoyment: A great puzzle solver game. If you don't like puzzles, stay far, far away. Otherwise, Jewels of the Oracle will provide hours and hours of satisfying brain exercises. None of the puzzles is impossible but many are extremely challenging, making the easy ones are a welcome relief.
Replay Value: Several puzzles have multiple solutions and the very nature of the game provides satisfying replay possibilities.
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