Cracking Jewels Saga for Android

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The next month marks 12 years since my first crack. I feel a kind of old. It was a nice period trying to find something new everyday. Software cracking was among them. Despite I have never been skilled in cracking and all my old cracks are quite simple, I still respect reverse engineering guys very much.

Recently I've became a fan of an Android game called Jewels Saga. I didn't use any cheats and I could reach the 198th level being stuck on the 197th level. However I couldn't walk through the level for more than a week, so...

Essential requirements

  • adb (may be supplied with Android SDK, but standalone packs exist as well)
  • nelenkov/android-backup-extractor — a nice tool to manage ab to tar conversion and vice versa (a precompiled binary, Git commit hash fcb4ee5af3ec973a406709de889a5cf340b61ce1, can be downloaded here)
  • dex2jar — a tool to convert Android format classes to Java classes format
  • fesh0r/fernflower — a Java decompiler (a precompiled binary, Git commit hash 77d6c2906f29492a568eedf5e553767d65350ccc, can be downloaded here)
  • openssl
  • jq 1.4 or higher — a JSON processor

Extra requirements

The following requirements are necessary to build nelenkov/android-backup-extractor and fesh0r/fernflower:

  • JDK 1.6+
  • gradle — a build tool to build nelenkov/android-backup-extractor
  • ant — a build tool to build fesh0r/fernlower

The process

Building nelenkov/android-backup-extractor

First, we need to build nelenkov/android-backup-extractor. This tool is a simple ab to tar and vice versa manager since Android backups are not simple tars.

git clone
    && cd android-backup-extractor
    && ./gradlew

The result JAR file will be located at ./build/libs/abe-all.jar if the build is successful.

Building fesh0r/fernflower:

The overall build process for this tool is really straight forward as well:

git clone
    && cd fernflower
    && ant

Preparing the game backup

  • Backup the application using adb:
adb backup -f com.smilerlee.jewels.ab -apk com.smilerlee.jewels
  • Convert the ab to tar using nelenkov/android-backup-extractor:
java -jar abe-all.jar unpack com.smilerlee.jewels.ab com.smilerlee.jewels.ab.tar
  • Since Android backups are really file order sensitive, we have to generate an exact files order list in order to guarantee expected order while repacking:
tar -tf com.smilerlee.jewels.ab.tar > com.smilerlee.jewels.ab.tar.lst

Analyzing the game

  • Extract the game application APK:
tar -xvf com.smilerlee.jewels.ab.tar apps/com.smilerlee.jewels/a/base.apk \
    && mv apps/com.smilerlee.jewels/a/base.apk . \
    && rm -rf apps
  • Extract the classes dex file:
unzip -p base.apk classes.dex > classes.dex
  • Convert the dex file to a regular jar using dex2jar:
sh classes.dex

Decompile the jar and save the decompiled Java source code using fernflower:

mkdir -p out \
    && java -jar fernflower.jar classes-dex2jar.jar out \
    && mv out/classes-dex2jar.jar \
    && rm -rf out

The game classes are not obfuscated and can be easily read by a human. Jewels Saga uses Android shared preferences facility to store the game state (unlocked levels, bonuses, etc). However, the state is encrypted and stored in apps/com.smilerlee.jewels/sp/save.xml and its /map/string[@name="state"]/text() node respectively.

  • Unpack the source code:

unzip -d classes-dex2jar.jar.src

And here is how the strings are encrypted and decrypted in the game (see classes-dex2jar.jar.src/com/smilerlee/jewels/states/

private static Key key = new SecretKeySpec(Codecs.fromHex("4cb04fa74c7c07e9"), "DES");
private static String encrypt(String paramString)
    throws Exception {
    Cipher localCipher = Cipher.getInstance("DES");
    localCipher.init(1, key);
    return Codecs.toHex(localCipher.doFinal(Codecs.getBytes(paramString)));

private static String decrypt(String paramString)
    throws Exception {
    Cipher localCipher = Cipher.getInstance("DES");
    localCipher.init(2, key);
    return Codecs.newString(localCipher.doFinal(Codecs.fromHex(paramString)));

As you can see, a simple DES is used and 4cb04fa74c7c07e9 is the encryption key. Other Codecs.* methods are really self-descriptive. 1 and 2 are Cipher.ENCRYPT_MODE and Cipher.DECRYPT_MODE respectively. These constants were inlined during compilation so jd couldn't resolve them.

Preparing the game state

  • Extract the saved state:
tar -xvf com.smilerlee.jewels.ab.tar apps/com.smilerlee.jewels/sp/save.xml \
    && mv apps/com.smilerlee.jewels/sp/save.xml . \
    && rm -rf apps \
    && xmlstarlet sel -t -v '/map/string[@name="state"]/text()' save.xml > save.xml.state.base16.bin \
    && xxd -r -p save.xml.state.base16.bin save.xml.state.bin
  • Decrypt the saved state:
openssl enc -d -des-ecb -K 4cb04fa74c7c07e9 -in save.xml.state.bin -out save.xml.state.bin.OPEN

Note that Java DES is des-ecb in openssl (whilst the latter uses des in CBC mode) since Java DES is in ECB mode and specifying just -des in openssl will not decrypt the file.

  • Now Mark the 197th level walked-through and enable the 198th level, disable ads using jq:


(jq -c '.unlocked['$(jq -c '.unlocked | index(0)' save.xml.state.bin.OPEN)']=1 | .hyperCount=999999 | .adFree=true' save.xml.state.bin.OPEN | tr -d '\n') >


  • unlocked — an array of levels that are locked (0) or unlocked (1);
  • hyperCount — number of extra diamonds (can't make it 1000000 because jq converts it to 1e+6 that does not work in Jewels Saga resetting the game state completely);
  • adFree — no ads, but this should not be modified letting the game developers earn some ads money.


  • Encrypt the patched file:
openssl enc -e -des-ecb -K 4cb04fa74c7c07e9 -in -out
  • Save the patched state:
(xxd -p | tr -d '\n') > \
    && cp save.xml \
    && xmlstarlet edit -L -u '/map/string[@name="state"]/text()' -v $(cat \
    && mkdir -p apps/com.smilerlee.jewels/sp \
    && tar -xvf com.smilerlee.jewels.ab.tar \
    && cp apps/com.smilerlee.jewels/sp/save.xml \
    && tar -cvf -T com.smilerlee.jewels.ab.tar.lst \
    && rm -rf apps

Note that we use tr in order to remove the trailing newline because jq produces a new line.

  • Convert the tar back to the ab format:
java -jar abe-all.jar pack
  • Restore the patched backup:
adb restore


Today I have walked through all 275 levels with 3 starts for each level. Yes, that's cheating, but I won't spend much time for the game anymore. And the final screenshot:

Jewels Saga extra diamonds paradise (999902 exta diamonds)

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