Playing Diamond Twister is like taking a tour through the Match-3 Hall of Fame. It picks and chooses its themes and gameplay mechanics from at least a half-dozen top casual games from the recent past. This method of game production often results in an ungainly, top-heavy Frankenstein’s Monster, but not in this case. Diamond Twister is every bit as sharp and elegant as Gameloft’s other App Store offerings, even if it’s derivative.
In Diamond Twister’s Story Mode, you play an apprentice jewel thief working for a strange criminal mastermind. This guy runs a Robin Hood shtick; he only steals from people who have themselves stolen from others. No honor among thieves, eh? We’re not sure if this is any more ethically defensible than regular crime, but it’s definitely more fun. Your boss wants you to recover eight famous jewels from eight deadbeats and con artists, in eight different global locations. Before each mission, he’ll give you a quick rundown on how your target came to be a scumbag, and why you shouldn’t feel guilty taking him or her for all they’re worth. These story snippets aren’t substantial, but they do serve place the game in some kind of context, which is nice.
From there, you’ll be switching around jewels to match lines of three or more, as most iPhone gamers are probably very used to by now. Diamond Twister trots out every trick in the Match-3 book to make this basic activity more interesting. For instance, there are colored squares that grant bonuses for “covering” with matches and irregularly-shaped boards, as in Jewel Quest. If you match more than three jewels at a time, you’ll get bonus jewels, such as the “twister,” which destroys an entire row of jewels at once, “burst” jewels that blow up adjacent squares, and “shatter” jewels that cause all jewels of a single color to wink off the board. You can also switch the game’s orientation by tilting the iPhone, although it’s hardly ever necessary to beat a level.
Story Mode simply requires you to earn a certain amount of money (points) on each level before time elapses, but Diamond Twister has many other unlockable “Challenge” gameplay modes, too. Some of them, like Magic Stones, are dopey–in this mode, all you need to do is uncover a hidden stone on a single space, which often happens by accident on the first or second move. Others definitely add value to the game, like Puzzle, where you solve prefab puzzles in as few moves as possible, and Forget Me Not, which is a kind of memory-matching minigame. The variety here is a boon, considering that many other Match-3 games are limited to one or two gameplay modes. And there are unlockable collectables and achievements, on top of that.
Diamond Twister’s presentation is second to none. It’s got the “Gameloft look” from top to bottom–attractive hand-drawn character art, smooth animation, tons of flashy particle and lighting effects during gameplay, highly detailed backgrounds, and a clean, professional interface. One subtle but very cool touch is the game’s title screen, which is filled with gemstones that bounce around when you flip the phone over. The music and sound work on this game is also very good, and the small bits of voice acting are strong. The overall aura of quality makes the gameplay much more satisfying than it otherwise would be.
Diamond Twister doesn’t really do much that we haven’t seen before in other games, and it doesn’t make use of the iPhone platform in a unique way, but it’s very well executed and extremely thorough. No Match-3 fan will regret laying out $4.99 on this game.