There is no doubting the quality of Bejeweled. It’s one of the slickest, most absurdly addictive puzzlers released in recent years and genuinely feels like the first true competitor to Tetris’ long held crown since Sega released Columns back in 1989. Whichever Bejeweled title you choose to play, you’re undoubtedly in safe hands with PopCap Games’s brilliant jewel smashing gameplay. So, with Bejeweled 3 now available on Xbox Live Arcade, the real question isn’t whether it is any good (it’s fantastic by the way), but whether it’s worth getting if you have already played Bejewelled 1 or 2 (or Blitz or Twist for that matter). Have PopCap Games done enough to genuinely reinvigorate their winning formula or is this just a case of more of the same? Well, while it is, rather unsurprisingly, more of the same, Bejeweled 3 certainly offers up enough innovation and exciting new game modes to make this the definitive Bejeweled experience, and one well worth a visit for both newcomers and long standing fans alike.
Despite the additions to the core gameplay and new game modes, at its core, Bejeweled 3 is still all about matching up three or more like-coloured jewels while attempting to build up as large a multiplier as is possible in the process. It’s as addictive as it ever was and can still steal away hours of your life if given half a chance. It looks fantastic with its bright colour scheme and imaginative 80’s fantasy-themed backdrops giving the game that unique PopCap visual style, while the audio once again impresses thanks to an impressive collection of catchy tunes and the return of the creepy yet strangely compelling voice over guy.
The actual changes to the core gameplay are quite subtle, but the inclusion of a Supernova gem that clears a huge collection of gems combined with the ability to switch gems as others are falling both prove welcome additions and certainly add something new to the experience without changing what was great about Bejeweled in the first place. After the mixed reception for the much changed Bejeweled Twist, it seems that PopCap have made a conscious effort to return to a more vintage Bejeweled experience this time around, and while I would never suggest that Twist was a failure, it’s nice to see Bejeweled back to its more traditional best.
The real changes to the formula wisely come in the plethora of additional game modes. Along side the traditional Classic Mode that plays just like you remember, Zen Mode lets you zone out without the fear of failure (so much more addictive than it has any right to be) and Lightning Mode gives you 1 minute of time with additional time added by smashing gems and putting together multipliers.
Bejeweled 3 is also home to 5 further game modes to keep fans busy and deliver some exciting new twist on the tried and tested Bejeweled template. The most successful of these is probably Poker Mode. Like the other new game modes, this needs to be unlocked, but fear not, all 5 are unlocked quite naturally as you give each game mode a try. Sure, it’s a sneaky way to make sure you play each and every game mode available, but hey, they’re all great, so who’s complaining. Poker Mode tasks you with putting together the best hand possible based on the cards matched to particular coloured gems which can then be strategically smashed to give you as high a score as possible. Like so much of Bejeweled, it’s addictive stuff, but thanks to the addition of a basic poker set-up, it proves one of the more tactical modes available in the game.
Butterflies Mode has special butterfly gems that need to be matched before they ascend to the top of the board and into the grasp of a rather hungry looking spider, while Ice Storm has you fighting off an ever advancing cold front that can be slowed down via horizontal matches and partly destroyed by horizontal matches that stop the icy columns in their tracks. Diamond Mine on the other hand keeps your attention on the bottom of the screen as you attempt to blast through the rubble and collect golden nuggets. While each of these game types are built around the core Bejeweled mechanics, they each require you to approach play in unique ways to succeed and certainly do enough to justify Bejeweled 3’s existence.
The fifth and final new addition comes in the form of Quest Mode. This offers up 40 brief challenges often based around the skills required for the other four new game modes. It’s kind of like a best of Bejeweled 3 mode that gives you a brief overview of the entire package in one place. It does however come with a few of its own unique challenges that make it well worth a blast whether you have made your way through the other available modes or not.
The folk over at PopCap Games have once again taken a simple premise and expanded on it in a way that never tarnishes the core gameplay experience. With plenty of fantastic new game modes to get your teeth into and a few subtle but nonetheless successful improvements to the core gameplay, Bejeweled 3 represents yet another fantastic example of puzzle-based gaming at its most polished and addictive. It may not be a huge departure from previous entries, but there is more than enough here to make Bejeweled 3 the definitive Bejeweled experience and a worthy successor to its equally fantastic predecessors.
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