Bejeweled is one of those games that you can thoroughly explain to someone simply by summarizing it in three words; match three gems. It might seem like an exceedingly dull concept, but developer Popcap has been able to elevate this simple idea into a phenomenon of a puzzle game, since it has blown up all over mobile phones and even made way to digital storefronts.
The third iteration in this masterful puzzle game series makes an appearance on both Xbox Live Arcade and PSN, and it brings a slew of modes, options and hours of gem-matching bliss to the table. It’s too bad that the game’s fundamental mechanics and gameplay hasn’t received an overhaul and there are no multiplayer modes to speak off, but Bejeweled 3 still offsets its flaws with a well-rounded selection of modes and absorbing puzzle gameplay; it’s Bejeweled like you know and love it.
The core gameplay gist and principals of the Bejeweled games are based entirely around the idea of matching a number of identical gems in a vertical or horizontal fashion. Match three in a row and they’ll dissolve and rack up your score, match four and they’ll merge into a special gem that will blow up and clear out large chunks of the playing field when combined. There are red square gems, purple triangles, star-shaped gems and much more but you can only swap the place of one gem for another at a time. It’s important that you observe the playing field, plan and then execute your moves in order to achieve a high score, and when the game throws bombs, timers and enemies at you, matching gems becomes a taxing and surprisingly habit forming ideal.
Bejeweled 3 boasts an impressive array of gameplay modes – classic mode is a relaxing, never ending series of levels in which you must rack up enough combos, multipliers, and other score boosting feats until you fill up a meter that will grant you transportation to a new environment. The real boon here is the Zen options that allow you effectively turn the game into a mental yoga exercise, with ambient background noises and a breathe-in-breathe-out visual indicator that turns the game into a relaxing puzzle solving experience with no timers or other variables thrown in. Progression made in Classic mode will also cause you to unlock more modes in the long run, and they all offer up a hefty amount of variety.
However, the most satisfying of the bunch is the Quest mode, which takes almost every gameplay mode and creates a host of unique challenges that will really test your wit and reflexes. One such challenge features snow that will slowly rise up the playing field, forcing you to combine gems to keep the invading snow from freezing the board in place. Another one has you combining gems to reveal and dig up buried treasure in under a time limit, whereas another features bomb-gems with a timer, and these must be combined with other gems before they blow up and cause you to lose the game.
Variety is most definitely the key word here, and though some of these challenges ultimately require more luck than skill –since the outcome is based solely around what gems you’re given to work with – Quest mode is still an addictive, increasingly challenging mode that will likely take you more than a few hours to fully accomplish.
Another great thing about Bejeweled is how highly accessible it is. There’s a terrific hint system in place that’s always available to you at the press of a button and pressing it will cause the game to immediately highlight a gem that’s useful to you in some way. This definitely adds some great ebbs and flows to the gameplay since you’re never left staring at the screen wondering what to do next, yet experienced Bejeweled players will likely be able to disregard this feature and do fine.
Unfortunately, Bejeweled 3 really doesn’t overhaul anything from past games as here are no added mechanics or any game changing twists made to spruce up the formula. Some neat special abilities would have definitely been nice and it seems like developer Popcap was able to come up with every gameplay mode imaginable for a Bejeweled game, and yet somehow forgot to implement any multiplayer modes. This is perplexing since there are a lot of hooks for both competitive and cooperative play, but for the time being, you’re left matching gems on your own and solely against whatever hazards or variables the game throws at you.
Bejeweled 3 mostly skimps in the graphics department, since all you’re really doing is staring at foreground or at the gems dissolving or blowing up about. The game does feature a very strong and rich visual aesthetic and the music is somber and complements your actions very well. There’s not a lot to it visually, but the sound design still triumphs with vigor.
With eight modes of play, a surprisingly compelling and fulfilling Quest mode to beat, badges to unlock and a ton of replay value; Bejeweled 3 is the most complete and engrossing game in the entire series. Multiplayer is still missing in action, but there’s still enough content here to justify the asking price of 15$. A little innovation, however, could have totally sealed the deal for diehard fans of the Bejeweled games.
I had a lot of fun playing Bejeweled 3, a compelling and instantly gratifying puzzle game that might surprise a lot people. Its variety is truly what sells the experience, making the already captivating gem-matching gameplay seem like the icing on the cake. If you’re looking for a soothing and highly approachable puzzle game with a lot of content on offer, then Bejeweled 3 is a safe bet, it’s one of the greats.