REVIEW – Bejeweled 3 (XBLA)

Busting Your Jewels

The classic match three Bejeweled formula that everyone knows and loves has not changed with Popcap’s latest sequel.  But the introduction of new game types is a good excuse to get addicted all over again.

With a total of eight gameplay modes, Bejeweled 3 offers new gem busting options in comparison to the first two games and the faster paced Bejeweled Blitz.  Some games like the Butterfly and card games requires careful though as each move can bring you one step closer to the game over screen.  On the opposite spectrum are time based games like the Ice mode that has the player beating down an ever growing glacier of ice before it fills the screen, bombs that must be destroyed before the timer counts down, or digging through dirt to find gold or artifacts before time runs out.

Besides the Normal mode which everyone has played, Quest mode provides an excuse to experiment with all the new and creative options found in this sequel.  Once enough of the puzzles have been solved, the game unlocks new ones.  This progressive way of unlocking the game’s content also extends over to how most of the new games are played; once you reach a high enough level playing one type of game, a new type of game will be unlocked.  But fear not as unlocking all 8 types of modes requires minimal effort and only a small amount of time.

Extending beyond Achievement points, the game also retains its own Badge system – the player is awarded Bronze, Silver, or Gold badges depending on performance of the each game.  In short, it is basically an Achievement point system within an Achievement point system and it provides even more incentive to keep busting jewels.

Games like Tetris and Dr. Mario are engraved into gamers’ minds not only for their solid gameplay but because of their memorable tunes.  Although Bejeweled 3’s musical quality is well-crafted, the tunes are not memorable; you won’t be humming the music when the system is turned off.  Instead, the game’s audio department promotes relaxation instead of creating a memorable jingle.  Zen mode even further promotes this by offering gimmicky breathing techniques to work in conjunction with the gameplay and soundtrack.  Sure it is cheesy but I give a lot of credit for offering some so unique, despite how silly it really is.  Watch, Bejeweled 4 will have Kinect breathing capabilities…

Reminiscent of a slot machine, the jeweled graphics are high res and the bursting animations are buttery smooth.  Subtle aesthetics, like the slight no-purpose animations in the background and the bright menu system really provide a high polished shine on the overall presentation values.  The narrator’s deep and somewhat spooky voice also gives the game a unique charm.

This XBLA version is essentially the same game that was released a year ago on PC.  Unfortunately, the 360’s D-pad and analog stick are just not the same as using fluid, accurate and speedy mouse controls.  In games that always have the timer against the player, speed is the largest element of success.  The analog stick cursor movement and one tap analog flicking mechanic work well, but do not hold comparison when viewed against mouse controls. Because of this, the PC version might have a one up against this XBLA version.

And with this being the 3rd numbered entry in the series, I am surprised to see a complete lack of real-time multiplayer. Sure, competing against your friend and the rest of the world for leaderboard dominance is a great way to keep playing, but the absence of any direct co-op or competitive online modes seem like a missed opportunity.  Tetris Party, Puyo Pop, Puzzle Fighter – games like these just wouldn’t be the same without multiplayer.  The new modes and leaderboards are definitely welcomed features but can’t take the place of a quality multiplayer mode…  But I guess that is what inevitable sequels are for.

For $15, Bejeweled 3 offers simple but addictive gameplay that few puzzle games on the XBLA can offer.  Fans of the PC version or even players of Bejeweled 2 or Bejeweled Blitz might have a been-there-done-that flavor in their mouths, but there is enough new content here to justify a full purchase, especially when this game will drop to 800 MS Points during a future Popcap or XBLA Deal Of The Week.


Better Than: Bejeweled 2

Also Try: Peggle

Wait For It: a true multiplayer mode

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