Bejeweled has become nearly ubiquitous over the years. In less than a decade it’s gone from a tiny Flash game to something you can play on mobile phones, consoles, and even the backs of airline seats. There’s a good reason for its success, too. Bejeweled offers a concept tantalizingly simple to understand – match three similarly colored gems to remove them from a shifting playfield – yet impossible to truly master.
With the first full-fledged sequel in more than six years, PopCap has taken the core concept and stretched it to its limits. Rather than simply offer slightly prettier gems (which Bejeweled 3 does), the latest installment adds a variety of clever riffs on the formula that change the experience in substantial ways.
There are eight main modes, a few of which are holdovers from previous versions. Classic is the vanilla Bejeweled you either love or don’t; Lightning is essentially Blitz from Bejeweled Twist, which offers a race against the clock; and Zen is a lot like the no-pressure endless mode, with the addition of optional relaxation cues built in.
Of the new games, I enjoyed Butterflies and Diamond Mine the most. Once you get past Butterfly’s cutesy name and presentation, you’ll find a challenging game in which winged gems inch their way to the top of the screen after each turn. If one creeps to the spider at the top of the screen before it’s removed, the game is over. Diamond Mine has you blasting your way down by matching gems. You have to chip away all the earth beneath a white line before the timer counts down. As a longtime Bejeweled player, I liked how quickly these two modes play and how challenging they can become. If you don’t plan ahead in either game, you’ll find yourself overrun in no time.
I wasn’t as fond of the other two main attractions, Poker and Ice Storm, though I can see their appeal. Matching gems to create winning hands is a clever idea, but it didn’t keep me interested for long. Ice Storm’s rising pillars of ice create tension, but I’d rather stick to Lightning if I want a hectic game. Quest offers a nice tour of all the modes, giving players a reason to sample each of them by providing challenges. Most decent players will tear through Quest in an hour or so, but it’s a fun time – and I beat several of the challenges by the skin of my teeth.
If Bejeweled has become part of your evening ritual, Bejeweled 3 deserves a prominent spot in the rotation. Core gamers may scoff at the idea of playing something so simple, but they’d be missing out by not giving it a shot. Sure, it’s pretty, but it’s also one of the purest, most addicting – and, yes, challenging – games around.