Some of my favorite games of all time happen to be puzzle games. They’re remarkably simple, yet they can captivate your interest for hours or even years at a time. It’s amazing that people are just as captivated by Tetris today as they were twenty years ago on the Game Boy.

It’s partly because so many people are overwhelmed by the utter complexity of regular console games that there is so much attention being drawn to the casual game market. Who hasn’t played Bejeweled?

Further capitalizing on this increasing interest is Marco Polo Games, a website that is simply filled with these casual games. It’s been a little while since I’ve done a ReviewMe review on Beyond the Rhetoric, so imagine my surprise when this request popped into my e-mail inbox.

Marco… Polo… Marco… Polo…

As far as I can tell, this casual games site is not directly related to the historic figure or children’s game of the same name. I guess it has to do with playing games and “finding” your target. Or something.

In any case, Marco Polo Games is home to a good variety of casual games from a number of genres, including action, hidden object, and word games. As part of the ReviewMe request, the advertiser asked that I pick one game to act as my focus, so I found myself sifting through the puzzle game section to find 7 Wonders: Treasures of Seven.

The Wonders in a Nutshell

As mentioned earlier, casual games have largely risen in popularity because of their utter simplicity. It doesn’t matter if you’re eight years old or eighty years old, because the gameplay oftentimes involves nothing more than a few mouse clicks. 7 Wonders: Treasures of Seven is no exception to this concept.

The story, as you can imagine, is pretty slim. You’re re-building the seven wonders of world and you need to provide your workers with enough blocks to do so. To collect those blocks, you clear the runes that lay above them. Yup, it’s another “match-three” style puzzle game.

The core gameplay is fundamentally identical to Jewel Quest, which in turn was a variation on games like Bejeweled. You swap adjacent runes to create matching rows or columns of three runes or more. When you do so, the tiles laying behind the runes are crushed and your goal is to clear the entire field of these tiles. Simple enough.

Graphics, Animations, and Extras

As expected with these kinds of casual puzzle games, 7 Wonders: Treasures of Seven throws in a few extras in an attempt to separate it from the pack. When you clear a group of four runes at a time, you create a bonus rune that can clear out an entire row. Clear a group of five runs, and you’ll get a bonus rune that can clear a row and a column. This is certainly a nice incentive.

Even though it’s a relatively simple game, I do appreciate that 7 Wonders features pleasing graphics and some nice animations. It won’t blow Gears of War 2 out of the water, by any means, but it’s more visually appealing than many of the other $20 casual games out there.

The Finishing Touch

The other thing that makes this game different than other “match-three” style puzzle games is that the stage is not complete when you clear all the tiles. There is a final step involved that adds a little more strategy to the game.

You are presented with a “keystone” and it is confined within a certain space on the grid. Your goal is to navigate this keystone until it reaches the appropriate keyhole. A rune will fall downward when the runes beneath it are cleared. This is how you make the keystone mobile. To get it to change direction, you rotate the game field. It’s not groundbreaking stuff, but it’s a fresh take on the match-three genre.

More of the Same with a Delightful Twist

Realistically, 7 Wonders: Treasures of Seven isn’t going to win any awards for innovation or graphical prowess, but it is certainly an enjoyable addition to the burgeoning casual games industry. The best part is, like so many other casual games, a free trial can be downloaded that grants you a full hour of gameplay. On the downside, Marco Polo Games isn’t quite as explicit as to how much it costs to buy the full version of any of its games. I would’ve liked a more obvious price point.