For those who've never heard of Jewel Link - don't worry, as there's actually a pretty good reason why the name isn't that familiar. Jewel Link Chronicles: Legend of Athena is actually the third game in the Jewel Master series, only this time, it comes under a different name. To muddy the water's further, the game's still known as Jewel Master: Cradle of Athena in the US, while we get the different name for the UK. Quite why it's undergone the change in moniker, we're not sure, but it may have something to do with the change of publisher for the UK.
If you've played the previous Jewel Master games, you'll be familiar with what's on offer here. In fact, if you've ever played a Match 3 game before, Jewel Link is a game you'll pick up very quickly. Using the touch screen to switch adjacent gems, all you have to do is make matches of three or more of the same time of icon, which then, inexplicably, vanish.
With a distinct air of Greek mythology, it's up to you to construct your Kingdom, and lead the Greeks to a prosperous future. How do you do that? By matching 3, of course! Each icon on the screen corresponds to one of three resources, the totals of which are shown on the top screen. By making matches of three or more icons, you'll add a certain amount of resources to your stockpiles, which carry over from level to level. When you've amassed enough, these stockpiles can then be used to buy new buildings for your Kingdom, which in turn unlock new, higher earning types of resources. Of course, as each building needs a lot more resources than the last, you'll actually be unlocking the buildings at roughly the same rate as you were to begin with, but that's levelling for you.
In terms of the actual matching, there are a few tweaks to the standard formula here, although, sadly, you'll probably be hard pushed to understand what they mean. In certain levels, you'll come across locked tiles, where the jewel's secured by a chain, and doesn't move. The description the game gives you seems to suggest that by making a match next to the locked tile, you'll break the chain, and will then be free to use the jewel in any future matches. What it actually wants you to do is to make a combination involving the gem that's been chained down - and by doing that, you'll break the chains.
Even if it is dodgily explained, it's not too difficult to pick up, and soon you'll be switching gems like a pro. Most of the levels play out in a very similar way, by presenting you with a number of blue tiles. If you make a match over the blue tile, you'll turn it to gold - and it's up to you to turn the entire grid a golden hue. Once you've done that, an Orb will appear, which you have to manage to get to one of the holes in the level. Once you manage that, it'll drop through, and you'll have completed the level.
However, while a lot of other Match 3 games are content with simply giving you a standard square, or rectangular grid, the levels in Jewel Link Chronicles are a lot more inventive. Peppered with random holes, and generally forming any number of strange shapes, the irregular form of the grids make things a lot more interesting - and complex. On other Match 3 games, it's phenomenally simple to figure out exactly where the gems are going to fall upon making a match, as they simply drop down in a straight line. On Legend of Athena, however, they seem to flow a bit more like water, or sand, squeezing through gaps and spewing out into the field below. It's hard to explain, and even harder to predict, which can make navigating the orb towards a hole, in your dying seconds, something of an exercise in frustration - although never enough to stop you hitting restart and giving it another go.
With over a hundred levels on offer, and several minigames (some of which don't involve matching 3 at all), Jewel Link Chronicles: Legend of Athena is a sturdy game, made even more appealing by its budget price. While it isn't without its flaws, and some of the later levels could do with giving you a lot more time in which to attempt them, if you're looking for a Match 3 game to fill that void in your life, you could do a lot worse than this.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS