Popcap Games has released Bejeweled 3, and with it comes new modes and new spins on a game of simple controls. How much has changed, and how much has remained the same? The short answer is the contradictory-sounding quite a bit yet not at all to both questions, but you’ll understand once I run this one through our scoring process. Let’s review.
Story / Modes
Bejeweled 3 has four main modes and four that are locked when you first begin the game. The former are Classic, Lightning, Zen, and Quest. Classic is the same as it’s been since Bejeweled 2: all you have to worry about is matching gems and not running out of moves. Lightning is basically Bejeweled Twist‘s Blitz mode, only you’re given about a minute to make as many matches as you can and add seconds to your time before the clock hits zero. Zen mode is just like Bejeweled 2‘s Endless mode, only with a few options to help you relax further if you wish to implement them. Finally, Quest mode is similar to Bejeweled Twist‘s Challenge mode in that you’re given several tasks to complete, and each task provides a spin on the old formula. Doing so reveals a fancy relic and will allow you to move onto the next set of tasks. You’re always given more than you need to go on, but they’re there for you to finish at your leisure.
The four modes you can unlock are all taken from Quest mode’s tasks. For instance, one of them is called Butterflies, where you have to collect a certain amount of the eponymous creatures before any one of them reaches the spider at the top of the board. Another one is Poker, where you have to make matches in order to create the kind of hands that are listed in the left-hand column. Ice Storm is similar to Butterflies, except with an emphasis on making vertical matches and speed. Finally, Diamond Mine compels players to make matches along the ground to dig for gold and treasure in order to achieve a high score, all before time runs out. Each of these unlockable modes are easy to access, so you’ll have all eight modes of play before you know it.
With so many variations to the ol’ 3-match formula, players will be drawn into this just as easily as the previous ones. Each new challenge gives basic instructions on how to complete it with clear and concise language, so new and old players alike will always be on the same page. We really couldn’t have asked for more.
The art style of the game evokes a fantasy feel, which contrasts with the space-age imagery of Bejeweled 2 and Bejeweled Twist. The backgrounds are nonetheless just as beautiful as those from the previous games, and even though they’re slightly animated now, they stay out of the way enough to not distract players from the main area of interaction. The graphics for the gems, though reused from Bejeweled Twist, are still brilliant and distinct enough to stand out to the player’s eyes. The interface changes slightly to accommodate the different mini-game goals. For example, Butterflies adorns the ever familiar gems with wings, and the spider at the top of the board crawls along its web as it homes in on the closest butterfly. Flame gems still ignite when they’re ready to go. Star gems, the new version of Bejeweled Twist‘s Lightning gems, gain a distinct star-shaped shine when they’re formed. Every piece of text is easy to read, and every edge and motion is smooth.
In an odd twist, the game seems to lag more if I leave it windowed as opposed to full screen. I saw this happen in just one place: when the game was informing me of a new badge (read: achievement) I’d obtained. Better computers could run every animation and transition without the lag, of course, so this isn’t the game’s fault. The rest of the graphics work together very well and, for the most part, run smoothly.
The new sound effects blend in with the old with seamless perfection. Flame and Star gems appear with distinct sounds that you’d have to hear to understand. When you’ve set off a Hypercube and a couple of Flame gems at the same time, you hear the ever-satisfying explosion you expect to hear. The sounds are great as always, but if you find they’re too loud, you can always adjust the volume either in the game itself or outside of it.
The music carries that fantasy feel that the game’s graphics evoke. The tunes are catchy while at the same time remaining more quiet than the sound effects. The music occasionally goes into the key of panic during time-based challenges as an added touch. You can adjust the music volume in the Options menu, of course, along with that of the announcer’s voice. Zen mode gives you the option to listen to ambient nature as you play instead of music, though the great-sounding selections are on the more generic side of the scale. To be fair, every waterfall will sound similar to people. Aside from that, though, every sound does its job well.
Control / Gameplay
Like its predecessors, Bejeweled 3 operates on very simple controls. You click on a gem to match it with two or more others like it (e.g. move one orange to match it with two other oranges). Regardless of what mode you’re in, this fundamental 3-matching remains the same. In Classic mode, you match gems until you run out of moves, and you can go as fast as you want until the game over screen arrives. In Poker, however, you’ll need to use more thought before making your next move because you can’t, for example, make a pair of yellow gem matches or else the skull coin of doom will decide whether or not you continue. This and other additions breathe some new life into an otherwise simple game.
Since the game is very easy to pick up and play, getting into the newer content is a simple endeavor. Once again, Popcap has shown that there are indeed a myriad of ways of playing the same game in a different way, and it’s still just as fun as it was the first time.
With a variety of modes in which to play and several achievement badges to acquire, Bejeweled 3 offers potential players plenty of reasons to start up the game again and again. The old top-your-high-score incentive only adds to this. Unlocking the four hidden modes may happen sooner than you might expect, but the other reasons to replay Bejeweled 3 are definitely present. There’s enough for this game to be crazy-addicting, which will just compel gamers to play this as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
Each new twist on the basic 3-match gameplay will make players think a little differently, which is the only detail that makes all the challenges similar. The game is easy, in the sense that the act of matching three of the same gem is not hard. Each mode offers new challenges, though, making the otherwise simple gem-matching require more thought than a point-and-click motion would suggest. Of all the new challenges the game has to offer, I’ve found Ice Storm to be on the more difficult end of the spectrum because those pillars rise at a quick and constant pace even at their slowest, but people can adapt to that.
Even knowing this, any given play session in Bejeweled 3 in any mode will last only as long as you’re able to make moves. The more difficult a challenge seems to be, the less likely someone will go back and play it, but that’s why Bejeweled 3 has many other modes of play. Don’t like one? Choose another. Simple as that.
The basic controls are the same as in the previous Bejeweled titles, but I’m sure that’s just what players want. The graphics of the gems, as noted earlier, have been reused from Bejeweled Twist. Whether Popcap did so out of necessity or some other reason doesn’t change how some recycling was done. On the other hand, I enjoyed the new fantasy theme they went with in regards to the general art style, partially because it turned away from the space theme of past Bejeweled games. That said, I couldn’t help but notice some similarity to the general presentation of Alchemy. I think this is more of a coincidence than anything else, and Bejeweled 3 has plenty of its own flavor to stand with its predecessors.
Rating: Very Good
Every time I went into a new mode to sample it, my intention of keeping the play session a short-and-sweet five minutes inevitably became a just-one-more-move twenty minutes. Clearly, Bejeweled 3 succeeds in the way the previous installments did by adding just enough new takes on the core mechanics to make the game feel like a new experience. What more needs to be said? A game with simple controls is going to be more accessible and endearing to people in a way a traditionally hardcore game can’t. Add in all the factors that give Bejeweled 3 its great replay value, and I think the rest can speak for itself.
The Bejeweled series is known for having the kind of pick-up-and-play controls that draw in droves of new players, and Bejeweled 3 has already done the same. It’s the same old game at its core, but it feels new, and that’s what counts. There’s a reason why the various Bejeweled titles have been called the best puzzle game since Tetris, and it’s because the former has been just as addicting as the latter. On top of this, Bejeweled 3 sells at about twenty dollars ($20 USD), and the system requirements are still low enough for most computers to run it even with the addition of HD graphics. It goes without saying that Bejeweled 3 can appeal to anyone, and likely already has as of this writing.
Bejeweled 3‘s Zen Mode has four main options that allow players to customize just how they would like to relax. One of these, as mentioned before, involves turning off the background music so that some ambient sound can play in its place. Others include a breathing guide, periodic appearances of stress-relief tips, and a headphones-required feature that’ll play different frequencies in each ear. All of this is supposed to help someone relax after a bumpy day, though you can choose to use or ignore them. This customization adds another layer to the play however you want vibe the rest of the game delivers.
Whatever else I could say about Bejeweled 3 has been said already either here or elsewhere. Even if you don’t play Zen mode, the fact remains that many more people are going to be bewitched by Bejeweled 3. Again. There goes a few more hours of the work day. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Originality: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Great
FINAL RATING: GREAT GAME
Short-Attention Span Summary
Bejeweled 3 takes the basic 3-match gameplay that defined its predecessors and adds yet another series of twists to stay as fresh and addicting as ever. Players will have eight modes of play in total, four of which are available from the start. Each mode requires a little bit of different thought on the basic gameplay mechanics, offering new challenges to overcome. Popcap’s struck gold again, and players everywhere will once more be entranced by the latest Bejeweled. This is a definite must-have.