The latest instalment of Pop Cap’s decade old mega franchise Bejeweled has been released on Xbox Live Arcade as part of Microsoft’s House Party promotion. Taking the established Bejeweled formula – swapping one gem with an adjacent gem to form a horizontal or vertical chain of three or more gems – the big change to this game comes with the addition of a one minute time limit to each round, creating a fast paced frenzied puzzle game.
By now there aren’t likely to be many people on the planet that havn’t played one version or another of Bejewelled. So what makes this version of Bejewelled worth purchasing when there are plenty of free versions available online?To start with there are two game-play modes: Classic and Twist. Each of the game modes has their own experience metre – to earn experience you simply need to earn points by matching gems. Levelling up does not actually do anything for you, there are no unlockables to be earned, aside from achievements. This probably will not matter to most people, but it would have been nice to have had some additional content to unlock as a reward for your persistence.
Classic Mode is very similar to the Facebook version of the game, with a few notable additions. The biggest difference is the way that it controls – using the left analogue stick to highlight specific gems, you simply press either Y, A, X or B to move the gem either up, down, left, or right respectively. It takes some getting used to at first, but mastering this control system is the easiest way to make as many moves as possible, as performing moves in quick succession is the only way to earn high scores.
Twist Mode takes a completely different approach to the way Bejeweled plays, and in some ways is the most interesting version of the game. Rather than selecting a single gem to move, your cursor highlights a cluster of four gems, which you then rotate in order to set up moves. In a lot of ways it is similar to Microsoft’s puzzle game Hexic or the Beghouled Twist mini game in Plants Vs Zombies, but the focus on performing to the set one minute time limit makes it much more intense. I personally found this mode to be the most interesting, but also found it difficult to play simply because it was so different to what you expect from a Bejeweled game.
The next major change is the implementation of online multiplayer. Up to 16 players can play against each other in a series of one minute rounds of friendly competition in either Classic Mode or Twist Mode. While you cannot see your opponents board or their moves, you can see their gamer picture on a leaderboard, indicating their ranking in the game. Earning the top score will grant you an experience bonus, which incentivises playing online.
The other multiplayer mode is Battle Mode, in which two players go head to head with the aim of getting the highest score. This mode is a bit more aggressive, and lets you see every move your opponent makes in real time. Every game you play, no matter what the mode, contributes towards your overall ranking, which is a welcome feature.
Battle Mode is available playable both online and offline, which is always nice to see. Too many games these days neglect those without internet access, or those that prefer to play games with people in the same room as them.
Despite all of these changes one thing remains the same: Bejeweled Blitz Live is as addictive as ever. Upon booting the game up for the first time, and with the clear intention of dedicating no more than ten minutes to my first play through, I wound up spending over half an hour playing online against other players without even realising it.
Graphics: 4/5 The game features a vibrant, colourful graphical style, much like the previous entries in the Bejeweled franchise.
Sound: 3/5 The sound effects are fairly unobtrusive, with minimal voice acting, and the music succeeds in relaxing the player by blending nicely in to the background.
Gameplay: 5/5 There is a reason why Bejeweled has been around for over a decade, it plays magnificently. The inclusion of online Multiplayer and leaderboards will keep players coming back to it for a long time.
Longevity: 4/5 The two main game modes, Classic and Twist, offer up a great deal of variety that require separate skills to master. While there is a level based experience system this does not contribute towards any unlockables, which is a little disappointing.
Overall: 4 Flame Gems out of 5
Bejeweled Blitz Live is a challenging new addition to the Bejeweled franchise, with two very different game modes, complete with robust online multiplayer modes. At 800 Microsoft points (about £6.80) it is definitely worth purchasing if you are even remotely interested in Bejeweled and fancy a little competition.
- Luke Mears