Praised for it's graphics and music, Jewels has been called one of the best puzzle games on CD-ROM. It combines ancient games and puzzles along with some new ones and turns them into point and click devices made of rock and wood.
Released in 1995, Jewels had the largest video window for its time and was one of the first hybrid CD-ROMs playable on both Mac and PC. It has been compared to Myst
and The 7th Guest
The player arrives in a recently discovered, ancient cavern that used to be a testing faciltiy 9,000 years ago for entering the long lost city that predates all other large, urban settlements. There is an altar with a jewel encrusted object floating in the air. Once it is touched, it begins to spin until it explodes after which the supplicant has to recover all the jewels. Each jewel represents a puzzle device belonging to one of six divisions of the city. The layout is duplicated by the well in the center of the main room, which is also the interface mechanism to each of the puzzle rooms. The experience is supposed to introduce the supplicant to the cultural details of the city.
Jewels is a point and click game that is all mouse driven. There are options for sound and transitions in order for the player to customize the experience and speed the game up or slow it down as desired. There are both Easy and Hard versions of many of the puzzles. It does not matter which version is played. There are no timers or adrenaline pumping stress moments and no competitions. The goal is simply to solve all the puzzles and gather all the jewels. Some players preferred to play in the dark by candelight while sipping a glass of wine. It's supposed to be relaxing.
Some puzzles are easy depending on what kind of observation skills the player has, but some are very, very difficult in order to provide a serious challenge to experienced puzzlers. All devices make use of animated 3D rendered objects that move with sound effects.
There are many hint and solution sites on the web for Jewels of the Oracle. In the game, there is a pyramid-shaped face at the top of the screen who speaks in iambic pentameter, but is not very helpful. Hey, he's an oracle. He's not supposed to be easy to understand.
The game was created and developed by Eloi Productions
and was the company's first and only game. It was distributed worldwide by Discis Knowledge Research
and later by DreamCatcher
when Discis went out of business. According to business articles, Jewels was the foot in the door that got DreamCatcher into the Best Buy stores.
The 3D images were modelled on Apple computers using a renderfarm at night on CPUs all over the City of Toronto. Texture maps for puzzle devices were all created with combinations of vector art (Adobe Illustrator) and photographic textures to make objects appear ancient and worn. Back in the '90s 3D tended to look clean and perfect with few light sources, because it was all about rendering time. This was the time of ID software's Castle Wolfenstein
who sacrificed textures and light for on-the-fly, no cursor-skid speed.
The programming was completed with Macromedia Director, using a Beta version of the PC version which also was released that same year (1995).
A sequel was authored by a whole new development team at Bardworks
, but with the same original creator of the first game who ran the company as well as directing and leading the project. Gems of Darkness was originally supposed to be distributed by Corel, but they sold their game division to Hoffman & Associates. Despite excellent reviews, the game did not gain the distribution and availability of the first Jewels. It would later be piced up by DreamCatcher and sold at discount prices. They are both still available at Amazon.com