Review: Bejeweled 3

December 20, 2010, Author: Ray Willmott

When people talk about the most successful and lucrative gaming franchises ever made, names like Call of Duty, Gran Turismo, Halo, Sonic, Mario and Zelda will more than likely be the first names that creep into people’s heads. Yet if you were not to mention Bejeweled, you really would be doing a disservice to PopCap and ignoring a massive demographic of gamers out there who play it all around the world. The release of Bejeweled 3, while it may not be as newsworthy to some as Black Ops and Gran Turismo 5, is a huge gaming announcement and on paper, has potential to be the biggest release that PopCap have ever done.

Of course, many would question, what else can you do with this game that hasn’t been done before? Are PopCap merely doing this for another cash injection? Can Bejeweled 3 offer enough to really make it worth the bother? Exploding gems
Chances are you’ve played Bejeweled at some point in your life. It’s been made available to every format out there; it’s on Facebook, it’s an app in World of Warcraft, it’s the core gameplay mechanic in Puzzle Quest, it’s on your mobile phone, it’s on handhelds, XBLA, PSN, WiiWare, PC’s, Macs, anything you care to imagine will have a version of Bejeweled on it somewhere.

However, if you’re the only person in the world who has never heard of, seen or played Bejeweled, I’ll give you a quick heads-up. The premise is pretty straight forward. You’ll be faced with a grid of different colour gems and it is your goal to attain as many points as possible. You attain points by combining three or more like-coloured gems together in a horizontal or vertical fashion, swapping them on the grid to sync up with the adjacent gem.

Of course, by combining three colours together, you’ll move other gems on the grid, and bring new ones into play. This can, potentially, create a gem cascade, enabling you to create further combos in order to increase your score. You can also match more than one set of gems at any time. However, things get even more interesting when you combine more than three gems. If you manage to match four gems of the same colour together, you create a glowing flame bomb.

The next time you combine the flame gem with any two other gems of the same colour, your screen goes ka-boom and will wipe out any gems around it. Pretty awesome! If you manage to link five gems together, you’ll create a hypercube, which, when combined with any colour on the grid, will take all of those colours out of the grid. If you swap it with another Hypercube, every gem on the board is annihilated. Awesome!

You’ll also be able to create the Star Gem which explodes every gem in its row and column, the Supernova gem (created by a row of six gems) which destroys every gem in its row and column and every adjacent gem as well. You’ll also get specialist gem types in some of the game modes, including the Time Gem in Lightning Mode, and the Bomb Gem and Butterfly in Quest mode!

As you can imagine, this gets pretty addictive and is pretty simple game to learn. However, as you’ll find out in later levels, it’s difficult to master. Thus, you’ll slowly start to realise why this has become one the most popular games in the World. It does bring back the question, when you’re creating a new Bejeweled game, what else can you do with this formula?

Badges are the new achievements. Earn them as you play!

Polishing a diamond
Well, in my eyes, Popcap have answered this nicely. They’ve brought back four of the popular vintage modes from previous Bejeweled games but also introduced four brand new modes which are unlocked as you play the game.

Back again in Bejeweled 3 is Classic Mode, which has you trying to play each level getting as many points as possible or until you run out of moves on the grid. You’ve also got the familiar Endless mode, which allows you to play for as long as you want. The Lightning Mode, which has players playing against the clock to get as many points as possible.

The Quest mode which pits you against forty different puzzles and eleven mini-games and the Zen mode, which is similar to Endless mode in that the game doesn’t end, but in accompaniment with the action on the grid, there is calming background music and ambient tones. This also includes a unique breath modulation mode which produces breathing patterns the game has designed for the player to follow! The idea of Zen mode is for players to relax and play the game as a way of eroding stress and unwinding, also to help stabilise positive brainwaves that can help with sleep. If that’s not enough, the original concept for Zen came when PopCap wanted to help players stop smoking! No more need for nicotine patches! Hear that Panorama? A potentially positive outcome brought on by gaming. You can pick your jaw up off the floor now.

However, that’s not all Bejeweled 3 offers. The new modes introduced are Butterflies, Diamond Mine, Ice Storm and Poker! Poker is as you might expect, but done with a Bejeweled twist! You have a pack of cards alongside the grid and every time you match gems, a card will be turned over, revealing a gem on the card. After five moves, the score from your hand is added together and put on a score table. The highest score comes from making a full hand of matching gems, which results in a flush. You can also receive hypercubes, flame gems and star gems on cards which can help increase the score for your hand. However, you won’t always be lucky, occasionally a skull will turn up on the card which will, in turn, have an adverse effect on your score. Of the new modes, this one is probably my favorite, I found it very enjoyable.

Poker face

Diamond Mine is all about appealing to your inner treasure hunter. The game features the use of a digging machine that moves two rows underground every time dirt above the sixth row is cleared and the only way dirt can only be cleared when gems adjacent to the mud are matched. Not only that, you’re playing against the clock and can only add time to the game when the digging machine moves. Unlike Zen mode, this one probably isn’t good for stress levels and moves away from the generally slow pace of most Bejeweled games.

The unusually named Butterflies features… well… butterflies. The game starts with butterflies on the screen who will be the same color as the gems on the grid and it will be down to you to match gems with the color of the butterfly in order to ‘collect’ them. You’ll need to try to claim as many butterflies as you can before they reach the top of the grid and get gobbled up by Shelob the Spider’s distant relatives who are just waiting for a tasty snack. That may appeal to your sinister side and fulfil some sort of sick morbid inner desire of yours wanting to watch a spider get his munch on, but if that does happen, then it’s game over. So, in terms of playing this game, it really does pay to interfere in the circle of life, regardless whether David Attenborough and Elton John would be upset or not!

Finally, Ice Storm features rising columns of ice emanating from the bottom of the screen. All you have to do is stop the columns from reaching the top by making matches above or below them, decreasing their growth. However, if you make a vertical match, it will completely shatter the icy nightmare, removing it from the board completely. Every time you make matches, you fill up a meter which increases your score multiplier, which will also, push the columns down every time it is filled. Of course, if any of the columns reach the top, the board freezes and it’s game over! As you can see, there’s a lot to do in Bejeweled 3 and there’s been some real changes since its predecessor.

Another new addition to Bejeweled 3

One of the new additions to the series is high-definition graphics and sound. For a game that may seem simplistic on the outside, it does look quite beautiful and you can really max out the resolution on PC. Even on my Sony Vaio laptop, I found the game really chugged along on the highest resolution setting and I had to turn it down a notch. I think this really shows just how much they’ve improved the look of the game. It’s been six years since Bejeweled 2, and while the game looks mostly the same, you really will notice the high-definition upgrade in 3. PopCap have managed to make this more glitzy, shiny and pretty and brought Bejeweled into the high-definition realm yet don’t seem to have changed much of anything at all. Brilliant!

As the game is renowned for, various backdrops are shown behind the grid, such as calming waterfalls, beautiful architecture, even weird, psychedelic, trippy imagery that is liable to have you thinking that someone spiked your cup of coffee! For a game with the most basic of looks, PopCap have always tried to add something new to the look and feel of the game. This hasn’t been let go in Bejeweled 3.

Another renowned feature of Bejeweled (apart from the second most famous announcer in gaming next to the commentator in Halo) is the zen-esque music that manages to bring a racing heartbeat down to a calm and composed one. Whenever you fire up Bejeweled 3, you won’t get drum n bass, no heavy rock, no spitting the phat rhymes, or jazzy jives, instead you’ll feel as if you’re taking a Yoga class, and indulging in the essence of air, feeling it empowering your body… or something like that anyway.

Either that, or the music will send you to sleep. Regardless, the music fits perfectly and works in harmony with the actions you’re performing on-screen, just as it has always done.

Lots of quests to be done!

One gem is better than two… at least, you’d think so. Now comes perhaps my biggest disappointment for Bejeweled 3, no online multiplayer. The groundwork for this is already done, some games featuring Bejeweled even allow online multiplayer, so why wouldn’t it be in Bejeweled 3? I can’t understand how when you consider this the next instalment in the series, why you’ve spent six years developing this, only not to have a balanced, online multiplayer. To make matters worse, there’s not even any online leaderboards, so you can’t compete scores with friends. Um what?

I’m not trying to say every game should have online multiplayer, but frankly, it’s already proven to work on Bejeweled, the groundwork is already there, so why isn’t it in Bejeweled 3? Long term? You may not find yourself playing this as much as you may have done had there been an online component. There’s a lot to do in Bejeweled 3, but online could have really added something more to this game. Why wouldn’t you want to try these cool new modes against friends? What’s even more bizarre is that there was some online presence in Bejeweled Blitz, which makes me wonder why this was overlooked here? Even the Blitz mode has been removed from the game. It almost seems as if PopCap were ignoring Blitz ever existed, which is more than a little odd.

Cascading into despair?
Bejeweled 3 is a much more arcade style game than its predecessor. While Bejeweled 2 would reward you for chaining your gem destruction with points, Bejeweled 3 makes it more clear how many points you are getting and adds multipliers to your score with the more gems you chain and destroy. PopCap have definitely taken some risks with Bejeweled 3, they’ve tried to mix the formula up and keep things fresh and exciting and ultimately, I feel it’s paid off. However, I still find the lack of online playability unforgivable.

In my eyes, it ultimately affects the long-term usage of the game. Why wouldn’t you want to take some of these clever innovations on the Bejeweled product online? Why wouldn’t you want to be able to play your friends in a game of Bejeweled Poker or get involved in a race against time on Ice Storm? The PC is practically crying out for games that make use of its online functionality, critics are constantly pointing the finger at the PC, saying it is behind the times because it doesn’t have the lucrative, entertaining online games XBLA or PSN offer. Something like Bejeweled 3 could have been a real saver for the PC in this regard, yet PopCap seemed to have missed the boat. Maybe they should consider releasing a patch?

All that aside, this is a great game. You can see PopCap haven’t rushed with Bejeweled 3 and have worked some real magic on their familiar puzzler, managing to keep it fresh and entertaining. Even if it is isolating you from the rest of the World, there’s some real entertainment to be had in Bejeweled 3 with the new modes, as well as the quests and the vintage Classic mode. All of which will contribute to you losing many hours of a day. PopCap continue to be the masters of their craft!


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