Review: Bejeweled Twist

June 1, 2009, Author: Trent Pyro

Bejeweled. A name that is now synonymous with bleeding fingers, millions of lost work-hours and one of the most lucrative tea break games of our generation. It’s also a lot of fun and incredibly addictive. Bejeweled has been ported and adapted to pretty much any medium you can think of; online, download, iPhone, Android, iPod, Xbox 360; the list goes on. Keeping the same simple but very effective concept has allowed creator Popcap Games to push a franchise quickly becoming as legendary as Tetris and Minesweeper. It was only going to last so long before getting stale however, and that’s where Bejeweled Twist comes in. A new spin on the old classic, it’s set to reinvent the wheel so to speak and create a whole new community of disillusioned workers and bored schoolchildren. Does it hit the mark? Hell yes, and here’s why.

Bejeweled what?
On the off chance you don’t know the concept of Bejeweled, let me explain. You get a grid, each space filled with a shiny, coloured gem. By swapping adjacent gems, you can create lines of three, causing all three gems to disappear. Points are awarded. Getting lines of four or five awards bonuses and so on. Sometimes matching one set will cause another set to drop into place and this is called a cascade. There are a few more tricks and power-ups, but the basic idea is there. So, what’s the Twist?

In the new imagining, instead of swapping two gems over you rotate sets of four in a clockwise direction. The aim is the same, the way you match gems is just different. This is far from a quick update however; the new system completely changes the way you play. Any veterans of the original game will be surprised to find their skill, while not going completely to waste, turned on its head in spectacular fashion. Rotating the gems is just as much fun as swapping them, if not more so, and the game’s enormous amount of variety keeps you playing.

There are four modes of play; Classic, Zen, Challenge and Blitz. Classic is the basic game, where you must work through level after level trying to survive bombs (more on that later), while Zen is the same but with out the ticking nightmares. Challenge has a set of tricky puzzles and tasks for the tactical-minded and is a brilliant way to test your true skills. Blitz is designed perfectly for brief periods of boredom and limits each go to just five minutes! There’s definitely a mode for everyone, and every situation.

The game allows you to create profiles, each one having its own save game on each mode. This means playing the game on a family or shared computer won’t be a problem, although a password option would’ve been nice to stop little brothers from wrecking games!

Red ones, green ones, yellow ones…
Aside from the massive control change, Bejeweled Twist has a few tricks up its sleeve. Matching four gems will now combine them into a fire gem which will explode if matched. A line of five will morph into a lightening gem which zaps a fantastic cross-shaped fork of electricity when matched, annihilating any gems in its path.

BOOM headshot! Wait, I mean lightning gem!

BOOM headshot! Wait, I mean lightning gem!

I mentioned bombs before. These new threats will soon become the bane of your Bejeweled Twist experience. Regular gems with deadly, turn-sensitive clocks strapped to them, letting one go off will not only trash the grid but end your run and force you to start back at level 1! Rather than being a time counter, it’s a move counter, so every twist you make will reduce it. It becomes a panic-strewn nightmare when two or three bombs of varying numbers flood the screen and need to be dealt with swiftly. Missing a bomb doesn’t always spell immediate doom though. The game gives you a chance to disarm it by clicking to stop a spinning dial. If the dial lands on a gem, you’re saved. If it lands on the evil, red skulls it’s die time. Each time the dial is presented, the number of skulls increases as does your chance of failure. This single feature makes the game tense, exciting and brings a fantastic sense of reward. Clearing a bomb-ridden grid of its explosive nasties is satisfying and jubilant, as is getting away with a lucky spin of the dial.

In the stable of less game-ending stuff, there are locked gems and coal gems. Random gems will get a padlock slapped on them. In this state, they cannot be rotated, but they can be matched with other gems to get rid of them. At first they aren’t much trouble, but as the game goes on they become a bomb-trap. Coal gems can’t be matched, but can be destroyed with fire or lightening gems, giving you bonuses and Geodes. Geodes create random fire gems and prove very useful, especially if they’re carried over to the next level.

Although there’s very little to criticise about Bejeweled Twist, there is one thing worthy of mention. Numerous times I’ve been doomed to fail. A combination of bombs and locked gems can be lethal, and very occasionally there’s nothing you can do. A bomb gem that is miles away from it’s sister colours and is impossible to disarm will create a terrible situation; you know you’re going to lose but you have to keep twisting until it happens. It felt like the game was forcing me to lose a few times, and the epic loss of going right back to the start is occasionally too much to bear.

All together, it’s a fantastic package. The gameplay is solid as a rock and the simplicity of Bejeweled suffers none by being complicated with threats and challenges. The addition of action replays for your wildest cascades is a nice touch and never gets old. Even the interface is brilliant.

Jewels in space?
That’s right, Bejeweled Twist has a plot. Well, not really a plot, but the imaginative and interesting interface tells a story. Each grid is a mad sort of space-cube thing. The points counter on the left is a space ship and matching gems fills its fuel bar. Completely filling this bar causes the cube to explode and the ship to fly away in beautiful 3D, to the next cube. On the way it passes other shapes, nebulas and stars. All completely unnecessary but very nice to have and always interesting to look at. Challenge mode sets each type of challenge on a planet and has you whizzing around the solar system solving puzzles.

No it's not Star Trek...

No it's not Star Trek...

The graphics are lovely for a game of this type. The gems gleam with beauty and the explosive effects are pure eye-candy. The interface is rendered in smooth, colourful style and just works so well. The semi-3D grids are a little harsh on the eye at first, but soon become the norm.

Sound as a gem
Sound-wise, the game shines. Spacey noises make transitions between levels an auditory joy and bring a level of retail quality to the game. Every gem pops and fizzes beautifully and makes every match an event. Bonuses take the top prize though, each having their own sound and immediately distinguishing themselves audibly from regular gems. The music is standard space-synth fare, but works well and doesn’t grate at all.

A jewel in the crown of independent games
I came at this review from the angle of someone who’s enjoyed previous Bejeweled titles but never been a real fanatic. After ten minutes with Bejeweled Twist however, I am now proud to call myself a fan. The simple gameplay is easy to learn but difficult to master and the bonuses keep the game fresh. The ‘one bomb and you are screwed’ mechanic is infinitely crushing but ensured almost unlimited replay value. The range of modes, styles and features serve to make this one of the best puzzle packages I’ve ever played. With no multiplayer to speak of it’s a solitary affair, but with so much to do and such an addictive streak it seems apt that Bejeweled Twist is a single player experience. It’s a lesson to not write off download games, because you just might miss a gem like this. There is no better way to spend a quick five minutes or a whole afternoon.


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