Wonder No More, It's Mediocre
The game is, like most MumboJumbo games, a fairly brazen clone of other titles already on the market. This is something I mentioned during the Luxor review, but cutting and pasting the general premise of a casual game and re-selling it as a new title isn't exactly new (PopCap Games has been doing it for ages now). I wouldn't mind terribly if a game that eagerly took the basic match-three-or-more concept of Bejeweled[i] (which, ironicially is an original PopCap product, if not core concept) and added in some very basic grid-based match-to-clear elements like [i]Big Kahuna Reef were kicked out at about $10, but at twice that price, it just seems smarter to play the free version online -- particularly when there is almost no advancement to the main concepts beyond the first stage.
Here's the poop: with a single move you have to swap symbols to match three of a kind or more to clear the symbols from the stack. At the same time, if there are stones in the grid behind those three matched symbols, they'll be punched out to fall down below for workers to gather up and "build" each of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (Colossus at Rhodes, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Great Pyramid of Giza, etc.). Match four and you'll get a Lightning Bolt that clears the entire horizontal row it's moved to. Match five and you'll get a Fire Bomb that clears both the horizontal and vertical rows it's moved to. Randomly, you'll also get an Extra Bonus that just causes a smattering of symbols to wink out of existence.
The only real complications here are a slowly ebbing time clock and the occasional requirement that you move a corner stone or cap stone to the bottom of the stack, or that you punch through a particular square with multiple matches. That's it. The corner/cap stones can't be moved, so you have to clear out the space beneath them, but otherwise the game is about as straightforward as they come.
Score is, largely irrelevant, since there's no multiplayer. In fact, aside from a Free Play mode that's unlocked once you spend the hour or two to breeze through the main "Story" Mode, there's only one other distraction, a no-time-limit task of matching a given number of a particular colored symbol (ugh, fine, "rune"). Unless you count little blurbs on each of the Seven Wonders as extras, there's literally nothing else here to poke through. It amounts to about $10 of gameplay per hour, maybe $5 if you take your time and haven't completely burned out on matching things up with the Rune Quest Mode. The game's promise of 192 levels is largely false because they're just repeated with more stones and matches and a faster timer.
It's not that 7 Wonders isn't at least a little attractive. While the single-player game lasts, it's at least distracting, but then so are a pair of really nice breasts on TV, but like boobs on the tube, it's really just a tease, designed more or less to get you to buy the full game, except you already have. Well, hopefully you haven't, but you know what I mean. Some of the little bits like workers that scoop up the fallen stones are a nice touch, and the backgrounds are pretty enough, it's just that none of it feels like it's particularly designed for the PSP. The music, oddly enough, is the best part of the presentation, channeling Middle Eastern themes about as well as any game of this type, and it was one of the few surprises I actually found in the game.
And now, of course, comes the comparison every other review will make these days (though we'll insist we made it first): Puzzle Quest. It, like Wonders, used the match-three base of Bejeweled, but did absolutely everything that Wonders didn't. It gave the game a real (if mostly vapid) storyline, it added in other elements like the incredibly addictive RPG leveling system and spells that could be cast on the board. About the only thing the two share in any passing fashion is decent music. And yet Puzzle Quest is only $10 more.
That, friends, is the very definition of why 7 Wonders is such a bad investment. It's not only wafer thin on actual gameplay, but it actually charges you $20 more than it costs to play the same game on a PC at home right now. $20 isn't enough to justify portability, folks, sorry. Stay away from this rip-off or just hit up Big Kahuna Reef for an idea of what you're not missing.