Review: Bejeweled 3
If you've played games in the 8 years or so, be it on a phone, console or PC, you've probably run across Bejeweled in some form before. The series has derived huge success due to the beautifully simple and yet super-addicting mechanic of swapping adjacent gems to form sets of three or more. PopCap didn't risk the core mechanic of the game when it came time to build a sequel, so Bejeweled 2 simply added new modes that worked with the same gameplay in slightly different degrees.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Bejeweled 3 continues in this same vein. Upon first entering the game you are given access to four play modes: Classic, Lightning, Zen and Quest modes. Classic is the traditional mode where the game only ends when there are no possible matches. Zen mode is almost exactly the same as Classic; its only gimmick is adding in soothing effects such as "inspirational messages" that appear in the game and "ambient sounds" to relax you as you match gems. I'm not sure if anyone plays Bejeweled as a form of meditation, but if there are, Zen mode is there for them; otherwise it's more or less a filler mode.
My favorite of the main modes is Lightning mode, which puts the basic game play against a one minute timer. This mechanic has already proved madly successful in Popcap's Facebook entry, Bejeweled Blitz, and Lightning takes the idea even further with time gems. As you create matches special time gems appear that, if matched, fill a time bar to the left of the game board to a certain amount of seconds. Time accumulated by matching this way will re-fill the timer when it runs out while also increasing your multiplier. The result is a game that can last over three minutes and becomes more and more intense with each multiplier increase. The pressure forces you to be quick but also thoughtful in lining up gems, since the reward for larger matches is great.
Quest mode is a mashup of different Bejeweled modes tied to a progression over five different areas. In each area you restore an artifact by completing up to eight offered challenges; completing four will be enough to advance to the next area, while eight fully restores the artifact (full restoration offers nothing but satisfaction for completionists). Each challenge in an area offers a different variation of the game, adding a slight tweak to the normal game play.
For example, in Butterfly mode certain gems turn into colored butterflies that move to the top with each match. The player needs to match the butterflies before they reach the top and are eaten by a spider. In Poker mode each match's gem color becomes a card in your hand - your goal is to get certain poker hands like 3 of a kind or a full house. Ice storm has rising columns of ice behind the board that will slow or stop when a match is made next to them. If all columns reach the top the game ends. There's also Diamond Mine which emphasizes making matches towards the bottom, which breaks through the ground and will eventually uncover gold and treasure.
There are several other variations you'll encounter in Quest mode, but I highlighted those four since they become playable outside of Quests when certain requirements are met. For the most part these new modes add a slight twist on the game but aren't enough to have lasting appeal. Some modes, like Poker and Diamond Mine, feel much more luck oriented since a series of bad gem patterns can easily end your game. Quest mode is also disappointingly short - there are only 5 areas and 40 quests total, so a decent Bejeweled player will get through it all in an hour or two.
Finding lasting appeal of Bejeweled 3 requires that one of those eight main modes will hook you. If you become addicted to getting the best Lightning score there is, or just can't get enough of playing it, then Bejeweled 3 will be more than worth your money. There are a few other attempts, such as badges that you earn from hitting score milestones in the different modes, to add replay value to the game, but they feel disconnected from the rest of the game and do not serve as huge motivators. Adding to this is the fact that the main mode of Bejeweled is easily found in one of hundreds of free online clones, and Zen mode is just that with some soothing music in the background. I recommend trying Bejeweled 3's demo first and seeing if one of the other modes stand out to you - you'll know pretty quickly if it's recapturing the original Bejeweled "one more game" feeling again.