|Dev: PopCap Games|
|Pub: PopCap Games|
|Release: December 7, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Robert VerBruggen
Within five minutes of firing up my review copy of Bejeweled 3, I knew for certain that even after nine years, the game's basic formula still holds up. A few quick rounds in Classic mode got me hooked all over again, and when my non-gamer wife saw the screen, she too became addicted. We spent several hours exploring what the game had to offer (and also fighting over who got to sit at the keyboard). We've returned to it often in the days since.
At a sticker price of $19.95, Bejeweled 3 needs to provide a lot more than the franchise's basic formula. After all, you can play previous iterations for free online, and countless other companies have cloned the game, tweaking the "match three" setup just enough to avoid copyright lawsuits. So, does it deliver?
Perhaps ten or fifteen dollars would be a better price range for the content, but the basic answer is a definite "yes." The developers came up with some truly enchanting new ways to play, and fans of the series will be missing out if they don't give this a shot.
There are a total of eight gameplay modes; four are available right away, and the other four unlock after you rack up minor achievements in the others.
Many are straightforward, or even taken straight from previous versions of the game. Classic is just a slightly modified version of the original game (matches of four and five give you flaming gems and hypercubes, which allow you to clear the board more quickly), Lightning is played on a timer, and Zen is just a never-ending version of the game with soothing music and some ridiculous new-age features ("breath modulation" is one).
The new unlockable modes are more innovative. For example, in Butterflies, butterfly-shaped gems start at the bottom and move up one row per turn, and if you don't eliminate them before they get to the top, the game ends. In Poker, you have to match as many of the same type of gem as much as possible to make poker-style hands (for example, three of one type and two of another is a "full house"). In Ice Storm, ice columns creep up from the bottom of the screen, and you have to take them out by creating matches within them. In Diamond Mine, you have to create matches at the very bottom of the screen.
Lastly, in Quest mode, you play through five worlds with eight stages each, and each stage presents a specific challenge. You might have to capture a certain number of butterflies, or score a certain number of points in a poker game. There are even gameplay modes that aren't available in quick play. For example, one features a string with two weights on it, one representing red gems, the other blue. If you match too many of one color or the other, the weight that it represents falls to the bottom of the screen, and you fail. Another makes you eliminate bombs in a limited amount of time or turns.
Quest mode will certainly keep your attention for a few hours, but for me, it prompted unfavorable comparisons to the Puzzle Quest series -- which, in games that are no more expensive than this one, gives players a much deeper campaign experience. If PopCap wanted to keep the gameplay super-casual, that's fine, but then it should have kept the price super-casual, too.