In this version of the connect-three game, PopCap has mixed things up, adding new game modes and more features. With other games like Plants vs. Zombies and the original Bejeweled being so entertaining, there's a bit of expectation that this game has to live up to.
Bejeweled 3 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, Nintendo DS [reviewed])
Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: November 15, 2011
Bejeweled 3 is, at its core, still Bejeweled, a connect-three game that has, out of necessity, added more elements in order to stay fresh. Surprisingly, PopCap has managed to retain the fundamental elements that made Bejeweled so popular in the first place, while adding more and keeping the title entertaining.
In all, there are eight game types, four of which, when played, will unlock the other four. The primary four are Classic (this should be self-explanatory); Zen, which is similar to classic except that the music is more relaxing and the game is endless; Lightning, the complete opposite of Zen in that you have to move quickly and match as many gems as possible in the time given; and Quest, which consists of five levels. Each level contains eight challenges, such as "Free a certain number of butterflies" or "Get so many points" but while some of the game types are ones found on the main screen, there are also eight game types that are exclusive to quest.
The four unlockable game types are Poker, Diamond Mine, Butterflies, and Ice Storm. While all of these retain the essential connect-three base, they're a bit more interesting than the other four game types (and require more explaining). Poker requires the player to match gems in order to create poker hands for points. Diamond Mine gives the player a certain amount of time to 'dig' by matching gems to clear dirt and collect gold and buried treasure. Butterflies puts butterflies at the bottom of the screen, and asks the player to free them before they make it to the top (and the giant spider). Every set of gems cleared moves the butterflies up a row. The last game, Ice Storm, divides the bottom screen into four columns of two rows each. Each column needs to have gems matched in order to keep ice from creeping up to the top screen.
Each game type will get more challenging as you play longer (for example, in Ice Storm, once you've cleared so many, each column breaks up so that each row becomes its own column) but there are ways to make it less difficult. When more than three gems are cleared, special ones are provided. Clearing four gems at once provides a flame gem that explodes all the gems around it when cleared, while clearing gems in a T or L shape creates a star gem that clears all the gems in a cross, with the star gem at its center.
There are also badges, which are basically Achievements or Trophies with a different name. Fulfilling certain requirements will unlock a badge at the bronze stage, and continuing to meet increasingly difficult requirements will unlock silver and gold versions of the badges. Along with badges there high scores and stats for each game type. In the stats section, players can check their rank -- which goes up as you play -- along with number of gems matched, favorite gem color, and total time played, among other things.
The records, stats and badges are great for anyone who wants motivation to play longer, and the additional levels add a number of reasons to keep a person playing, and help to keep it fresh. The only problem here, however, is that even with all the extra features and goals, the task is still the same. In each and every game type you will still be connecting colored gems. There are enough different options for the games that everyone who plays should find something they enjoy, it's just a question of how long will it be entertaining. The controls are also solid, and set up so that players can use the stylus or the d-pad, depending on what feels comfortable to them. There are also three user slots, so if anyone else wants to play, you won't have to worry about them ruining a game you have in progress.
Another cool feature is that no matter where you are in a game, you can exit and play another game, but go back to the first one later. When you resume a game you will have the option of continuing from where you left off or starting a new game. So you can bounce between game types if one starts to get boring or frustrating.
The downside to this is that no matter how you look at it, this is still Bejeweled -- which is a good thing, if you enjoy connect-three games -- but the entire thing is pretty basic without much serious game variety. As much fun as this game is (for what it is), I have a hard time finding any justification outside of gift-giving for spending $20 on this. For me, this style of game is something I would maybe pay a dollar for on my phone to kill time waiting for something else. The fact that the only handheld system this is offered on is the DS means that anyone who wants to play it and doesn't have a DS will have to buy it on the consoles, PC, or Mac.
When the superficial variety of the different game types is stripped away, you will still be left with Bejeweled, which might not be a bad thing if you enjoy connect-three games, but when the entire game is really just different variants of the same task over and over again, the chance of growing bored with the entire thing quickly is relativity high. If you can't get enough Bejeweled and know you won't get bored easily playing this, $20 is not asking too much, but for anyone who is looking for more substance from their game, the price point is far too high.
To sum up, Bejeweled is a good way to kill a little bit of time, and PopCap has done a good job with adding variety to the game types, but it is still a shallow title that doesn't require a lot of time, energy or commitment, and something that could get tired very quickly. Despite the creativity found within, this title won't be for everyone and I can't say that I'd be willing to spend as much as they're asking for it on myself, especially not when I can pay a dollar on my phone for a similar style of game. This is still a great game for people who enjoy this genre, and due to how quickly players will grasp the core concepts, and how easy it is to pick up and put down, it will cater to a wider audience, but for $20, there are other games out there with more to offer in the way of substance and replayabilty.
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