Improving on perfection for most of us is a hard task at hand, but for PopCap Games, it seems to be a breeze as one of the Xbox 360’s most addictive puzzle games, Bejeweled 2, has just been given a glitzy new sequel with brand new game modes and even more challenges than ever! Bejeweled 3 has already been available to download on the PC for more than a year now, but as a new arrival to the Xbox LIVE Arcade it brings twelve new unlockable Achievements, Competitive Leaderboards and eight different modes of play to keep you hooked for hours on end.
If you’ve never heard of Bejeweled before, not only must you have been living under a rock, but it is a simple puzzler based on matching at least three of the same gem types on a grid to obtain a higher score that will eventually complete a level. Once a level has been complete, the grid changes and the whole process of gem matching starts all over again. To help boost your score and complete levels quicker you are able to create different gem types in the process. Matching just three of the same type will only offer a basic score, but Flame Gems can be created by matching four of the same type in a row or column; once these are matched they will then explode all gems adjacent creating a higher bonus score. You can match five gems in a ‘T’ or ‘L’ style to create a Star Gem, which when matched will explode every single gem in its row and column. Alternative for the ultimate score boost which requires a little more thought process, you can create Hypercubes which once matched with any colour gem will knock out all of your chosen colour gems from the grid! Finally, a new gem type for Bejeweled 3 is the SupaNova Gem which appears as a flaming star; When matched it detonates every gem in its row and column, and every adjacent gem surrounding it. The SupaNova Gem is created by sheer fluke in the way that the gems drop down on the grid.
If you already own Bejeweled 2 on the Xbox 360 and you’re thinking how could this be any different? PopCap Games has truly delivered an even better gameplay experience by introducing fresh new game modes that are even more addictive to play than those found in Bejeweled 2. Also, being one of the rare games available on the Marketplace where replay value is achieved on just the addictiveness alone, Badges have now been introduced into the Menu that are awarded for completing different tasks and then upgraded the better you play – if you want to obtain all of the games Achievements you will need to unlock all game modes and earn Badges.
So, by now you should be interested to find out about the game modes? I’ve described them all below, but not all are unlocked instantly as the game requires you to reach certain levels in the available modes before unlocking new modes. However, don’t panic as it’s not a lengthy process as with Bejeweled 2 and you can unlock all modes in less than one hour.
The great news is that Classic Mode has returned. This is the most simple of game types that require you to keep on matching your gems until you just can’t match any more. You’re not timed and can take it all in your stride – even end the game and carry on later from where you left off with auto-save. It requires a careful thought process with each move as once you’ve reached as far as you can go on the grid it’s Game Over and you have to start from scratch again!
Quest Mode is a new addition that opens a series of puzzles and mini-games to unlock and complete. This mode uses a combination of all the game types and required objectives where you have to complete a set number of games before unlocking the next part of the quest. Think of this like an evolved version of Puzzle Mode from Bejeweled 2, but even more fun and challenging.
Zen Mode, a new addition that is very similar to Bejeweled 2’s Endless Mode. You can play the game and keep on going, and going, and going and going – but with a new twist – calming music to suit you and breathing techniques that help you relax and unwind. Some may find the breathing techniques annoying, but this can be switched off in the options menu. It’s a simple line in the background which higher and lowers itself, where you are then encouraged to follow the pattern with your breathing. Since it’s a known fact that men can’t multitask (allegedly) I felt like I could only follow the breathing line or ignore it and play the game – not both together.
Lightning Mode, this is basically a time trial based game type where you have to get as many points as possible within 60 seconds. It’s a really fast game, but extra time can be earned by matching gems in good speed and by also unlocking the dropped Time Gems, which can add up to ten seconds to your play time. Any unused Time Gems will explode when the timer runs out taking out gems with it gaining you potentially extra points and/or time to play.
Butterflies Mode – a new game type featuring Butterfly shaped gems that move up one space every time you create a match; the aim of this game is to release the Butterflies by matching them with their own coloured gems. All the Butterflies start at the bottom of the grid and you must ensure that not one butterfly reaches the spider waiting at the top of the grid – otherwise it’s Game Over!
Diamond Mine Mode – A new timed game type that requires you to make matched gems so that you can dig further underground where you collect Gold, Gems and Artifacts to earn points and extra time so that you can continue playing. When the timer runs out – it’s Game Over and start from scratch again!
Ice Storm Mode – this new game type features rising columns of ice in the background of each column where the aim of the game is to stop the columns from reaching the top of the grid. Making matches above or below ice columns decrease the height of them, and making a vertical match in the column will break it down for extra playing time. Should you allow an ice column to reach the top of the grid, after a few frozen moments the game will come to a grinding halt and Game Over.
Poker – Saving the best till last, Poker Mode really is the greatest new addition to Bejeweled and features a pack of cards beside the playing grid. Every time a match is made, a card is turned over with the coloured gem on it from the match you just made. After five matches, a Hand is created and you obtain score based on the Hand you just made. Two matches of the same colour would create a Pair, Two Matches of two different colours would create Two Pairs – and other Hands include 3 of a Kind, Full House, 4 of a Kind and a Flush being 5 matches of the same colour gem type. Every now and then to increase the difficulty in Poker Mode, a skull appears on the scoring board and you must avoid creating the Hand type that it has landed on. If it is unfortunate that this is the only Hand that you can create, an on-screen coin is displayed which will flip over and either allow you to play on or end the game. Skulls are removed by constantly avoiding the hand type and gaining a high score with better Hands. Poker Mode is by far the most addictive and entertaining game type in the Bejeweled series and could have been a game in its own right.
Whilst the visuals in Bejeweled 3 appear brighter, sharper and the backgrounds like a scene out of a fantasy film; the game play still fun, simple and highly addictive – it is disappointing to find that no multiplayer options have been developed. A few split screen games up against the clock or score based battles would have made this even more appealing for its 1200 MS Points price tag and hopefully PopCap Games might take this on-board for future versions. There’s no denying that Bejeweled 3 could appeal to every type of gamer, because as well as being a fantastic puzzle game, it’s also one of those games where when you just have had enough of your favourite first-person-shooter and fancy something different to unwind and relax – Bejeweled 3 is like the most luxurious Spa for your gaming mind. Although a multiplayer would have been the crème de la crème, this is still a must-have game for your Arcade collection that you’d be a fool not to own. PopCap Games have surpassed themselves.