Bejeweled 3 – Review
After a week of heavy play of FIFA 12′s horribly addictive Ultimate Team mode, going through the chore of playing yet another match three puzzler on Xbox Live Arcade wasn’t something I was looking forward to, especially as I thought Bejeweled Blitz was a load of old bollocks and I wasn’t convinced that the Bejeweled series works on anything but a touchscreen. Add to that the prohibitively expensive asking price (1200MSP) and this is the kind of game that I imagine most of you will be ignoring without giving it a second thought. Well stick with it because, amazingly, Bejeweled 3 is ace as tits.
For those of you who’ve never seen a gaming-capable phone or any kind of website, Bejeweled is the bazillion-selling match-three puzzler from PopCap, the guys who brought you the maddeningly addictive Peggle and the brilliantly charming Plants Vs. Zombies. The original game saw you swapping over pairs of jewels in order to make a line of three, at which point they disappear and more drop in from above in the tradition of Columns or, to a degree, Tetris. The last game in the series, Bejeweled Blitz, was a lightening fast effort that saw you playing one minute matches of either the Classic mode or Twist (a mode where you rotate groups of jewels rather than swapping pairs) but control issues, combined with a huge luck requirement, made it a little disappointing and the one minute time limit meant you could never really settle into a groove with it.
Thankfully, any concerns I had with that game (or any other in the series) have been dealt with. Firstly, there are a choice of eight modes (some of which you have to unlock, but there’s not too much difficulty involved in doing that) that all give distinct flavours of the Bejeweled formula. These mostly do away with the one minute time limit, thankfully, and have their own set of in-game badges that are awarded for various feats. The great thing about the badges and associated achievements are that their targets are focused on skill rather than chore or luck – definitely a first for the series. It’s worth mentioning the various modes, as the game borrows from plenty of other games while always keeping true to the series’ roots.
The basic flavour of Bejeweled that sees you swapping pairs of jewels until there are no more moves left. A simple match three puzzler.
An endless version of the above but with a bizarre ‘biofeedback’ system that is supposed to chill you out by playing certain frequencies at you and moderating your breathing. The jury is out on if it works but if you want a quick chill out and have played a little too much Chime, this will suffice.
This is a one-minute mode, similar to Blitz but with the chance of earning additional time from making special gems. That ability makes this mode far more enjoyable than Blitz and is perfect for a quick bash.
One of the best modes in the game, this plays like Classic Mode but with ‘butterflies’ – special pieces that can be manipulated and destroyed like regular jewels – that climb up the board from the bottom with each move. If they get to the top, it’s game over. A good degree of strategy is required if you want to get the big scores on this one.
Another excellent mode, that gives you a jewel for each move you make. Clear a set of red jewels and you’ll get a red one in your hand. The idea is to make a ‘hand’ of five jewels. The harder the hand, the more you’ll score. So three reds and two yellows (a full house) scores higher than a pair, for example. It’s a little bit like the XBLA title Poker Smash, but not horribly hateful.
Taking its cues from the dreadful Mr. Driller, this mode has you destroying the ground beneath you by making matches next to any soil pieces. Destroy a whole horizontal row of soil and you’ll drop down to the next depth. Tactical thinking is key here and the time limit keeps things suitably frantic as you look to get the next row clear, which will give you a thirty second time bonus.
Possibly the most frantic mode of all, Ice Storm seems your game board filling with water as you play. Once the water reaches the top, it starts to freeze. If a column freezes, it’s game over. Making horizontal matches will stem the tide a little but you really need to make vertical matches as this will clear entire columns of ice.
A set of tailored levels that use the other modes in the game (and a few extra ones) but have specific challenges associated. These range from easy to maddeningly tough but this is a very enjoyable mode with plenty of variation.
Although I have favourites, none of the modes disappoint and the twin-stick controls (something that Blitz really needed) make playing any of them almost as effortless as the formats the game was really intended for. With the incentive of getting all the badges, there’s plenty of reason to keep coming back before you even start thinking about the online leaderboards, although those are likely to hot up in a few months time when this game inevitably becomes an Xbox ‘deal of the week’ title. However, despite the cost, knowing what I know now, I’d buy this. It’s a great game, perfectly polished (with the clean, bright look you associate with all PopCap titles) and is ideal for quick plays. Even if those quick plays are likely to stretch out for hours.Pros
- That classic, addictive gameplay
- Addictive beyond counselling
- Plenty of variation
- Perfect for pick up and play larks
- A little pricey
- Doesn't really encourage going to bed or going out and doing something productive
As one of literally dozens of similar games on the system, Bejeweled 3 is a little bit hamstrung by its price, especially as it's probably 90% cheaper on the various iDevices, but it is second only to Chime in the genre, effortlessly outdoing the other match-three puzzlers on Xbox Live and more than living up to the PopCap brand.
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