by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Diamond Quest Not Rated; Mobile phone & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hank goodness for Paris Hilton. She's a perfect role model for learning how to handle screw-ups -- embarrassing, public screw-ups. When Paris visited the E3 videogame convention this spring to launch her mobile phone game Jewel Jam, she got the name wrong. "Diamond Quest," she proudly announced, was its title. Suddenly, hundreds of pimply videogame "journalists" saw their chance to smackdown an actual heiress. En masse, they ran to their laptops and unleashed years of repressed mockery at the girl in the room who most resembled a princess. The flood of articles was merciless and cruel, and it turned Paris's little cell phone game into a story as big as the PlayStation 3.
Paris, it turns out, was right (of course). Diamond Quest is a superior name, and she didn't need to hold meetings, hire focus groups or pay consultants to devise it. She just screwed up, brilliantly, and after the furor died down, Gameloft, the game's developer, changed its title to Diamond Quest. The game itself is based on the Internet classic Bejeweled, a game that became a hit because it requires nothing more than flip-flopping colored jewels around until three of the same color line up in a row. But Bejeweled was, and still is, bland. It lacks personality. That's where Paris comes in.
Not only are pictures of Paris liberally slathered across Diamond Quest, there's even a story. It involves my jetting around the world, buying jewels and new dresses for Paris. But the story is just an excuse for Gameloft to wring every possible variation of fun out of the basic game. In some jewel shops, Paris only rewards me for jewels of a certain color. In other shops, Paris gets greedy and wants me to earn her some money. And occasionally I just flip gems around until I uncover the letters spelling "PARIS." It's easily the most glamorous variation on the game H-O-R-S-E ever devised.
The game's playing tempo has also been tweaked to better accommodate the unique platform of the mobile phone. I can win an entire level of Diamond Quest in the amount of time it takes me to order coffee. And there are enough mini-games -- from non-timed puzzles to memory challenges -- that it's easy for me always to find a way to win. As Paris told me when she read my fortune in one of Diamond Quest's mini-games: "If at first you don't succeed, redefine success."
THE GOOD: Diamond Quest is an example of how an imaginative company can turn a time-waster into a videogame. Bite-sized chunks of playing time, a distinct palette of colors that stands out on a phone's dinky screen, and tried-and-true gameplay taken to the max make Diamond Quest one of the best videogames I've ever played with one hand.
THE BAD: Even though Diamond Quest costs only a few dollars, it requires an expensive phone. But those are more popular than PlayStations, so maybe Paris knows what she's doing. In that case, her main fault lies in approving a soundtrack filled with what sounds like synthesized hand clapping and miniature organ music.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Diamond Quest updates the old puzzler Bejeweled with enough daffy style to make me wish that videogames always had Paris.