Match-three is a genre that is over-saturated throughout the gaming world, and even moreso on devices such as mobile phones and handhelds. With the stiff competition, any game that wants to enter this market is going to have to do a lot to differentiate itself. Luckily, 7 Wonders II from developer Mumbo Jumbo does a great job of being unique and entertaining in such a crowded genre.

The premise of the game is simple: build the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by matching rows of 3 gems to provide materials for workers.The Wonders include Stonehenge, The Colosseum, Taj Mahal, The Great Wall of China, Shwedagon Pagoda, Angkor Wat, the Statues on Easter Island and one secret wonder which you won’t find until you’ve put together seven pieces of a map you find at the other locations.

Graphically, the game is serviceable without being anything special. Blocks animate smoothly as you work to solve the puzzles, but the textures overall feel grainy and low-res. The game is simple, and in that, it achieves its goal, but it is not flashy in any way. Audio, as well, is serviceable with sound effects corresponding to every move you make on screen, and a soundtrack that is both the perfect complement to the game, and instantly forgettable afterwards.

It’s a concept that’s not new to gamers; anyone who’s played Bejeweled will understand the principle immediately. The game takes it one step further, however, by changing up level layouts, introducing special tiles and adding power ups. While the level design starts with a simple rectangle, once you get a few stages in you’ll see things set up in various patterns split in half, making it much more difficult to get a whole row cleared. If you clear 4 blocks in a move, you’ll get a special ice tile that will eliminate an entire row if you move it. Clear five blocks in a move, and you’ll get a fire tile that will clear both the row and column it’s in if you move it.

Use a few of those special tiles, and you’ll get a dice tile that clears random blocks and earns you bonus points. Even more, there are 12 power-ups that you can earn throughout the game that let you use special abilities. Once you’ve earned a powerup, you can assign it before beginning the level and use it multiple times (there’s a recharge time in between uses).

Once you finish a round, the amount of blocks you were able to collect gives you building materials to add to the wonder. You can either place them yourself on the grid, or allow the computer to automatically add resources. Some locations on the grid will reveal secrets when you fill them in, taking the form of powerups and pieces of a map that will reveal the location of a secret location, as well as a mini-game. In the mini-game, the player has a limited number of moves to use to get an item to the bottom of the board. Some mini-games only allow one move and others give you three; the mini-game forces players to use logic to free the object.

One aspect that sets the Seven Wonders series apart from other match-three games is their creative use of the upper screen on the DS. A foreman directs workers on the upper screen to use the blocks that you’ve collected on the lower screen to build the wonder you’re working on. While for the most part you’re too busy clearing blocks on the lower screen to see what the workers are doing, if you glance up you’re likely to see some amusing animations. The workers will even go on strike, or leave, if you don’t give them enough blocks to work with.

While it doesn’t do anything spectacular, 7 Wonders II is a well-made match-three game. If you like the casual puzzle genre, you’ll enjoy this, but it doesn’t have much to appeal to anyone else.

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Solid Match-Three Gameplay
+ Entertaining workers on the top Screen
– Not particularly innovative
– Won’t appeal to everyone

7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.

7 Wonders II was developed and published by Mumbo Jumbo. It was released on June 14, 2012 for $7.99. A copy was provided by the developer to RipTen for the purposes of review.