Asynchronous gem-matching in Jewels With Buddies

Jewels With Buddies is a new asynchronous multiplayer game for iOS devices from Stofle Designs. It’s available now as a free download for iPhone.

Jewels With Buddies is essentially two-player asynchronous Bejeweled Blitz. Players take it in turns to spend a minute swapping gems around on a board in an attempt to make lines of three or more like-colored jewels. Play unfolds over the course of three rounds, after the conclusion of which a winner is declared based on total score. Unlike Bejeweled Blitz, matching groups of four or five gems does not result in the creation of special gems, but “multiplier” jewels appear when the player completes an “extended combo” — matching a large number of jewels in rapid succession.

Players earn soft currency through play (or acquire it via in-app purchase) and may spend it on powerups to use during play. During the player’s first few games, they may only use specifically-provided powerups. After this required step has been completed, players gain access to a second powerup slot and the ability to freely equip the items they please. Each item has a “power level” statistic, and players are not able to equip a combination of powerups exceeding a total of 18 power, even if they have the virtual currency to do so.

Powerups have several functions. Some destroy specific groups of gems on the board, while others slow down time, making it easier to complete combos. Each powerup has a specific associated gem color, and must be “charged” by matching gems of the appropriate color in order to use — though both equipped powerups begin fully charged and may be used immediately.

Players may draw their opponents from their Facebook friends list or a bank of random opponents. To prevent unwanted or unsolicited invitations, requesting to start a game with a random opponent puts the player in a queue to play against those who have requested to do the same rather than simply choosing a random user who may not wish to be bothered with games against strangers. The game also features a “local play” mode, allowing players to compete against friends who are physically present. When playing in this mode, using powerups does not cost soft currency, but coins may not be earned, either.

Jewels With Buddies is a fun, highly competitive two-player game that lends itself well to asynchronous play. It’s a bit of a shame that it isn’t more imaginative than a Bejeweled clone with animal-themed powerups, but on the other hand this means it’s a style of game that many players will be immediately familiar with. The game’s presentation is good and the implementation of asynchronous multiplayer is well-designed and speedy to respond. It also doesn’t make obtrusive use of its social features, limiting use of Facebook to opponent-finding and discreet Activity Feed stories about victories and losses.

Jewels With Buddies is a robust addition to iOS’ catalog of asynchronous multiplayer titles and is likely to enjoy some success over time. The “With Buddies” brand is starting to grow in popularity thanks to this game and its predecessor Dice With Buddies, so it’s entirely possible that Zynga’s With Friends series will have a credible rival snapping at its heels before long.

You can follow Jewels With Buddies’ progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for iOS and social games and developers.