The Bejeweled puzzle game franchise has grown tremendously since its debut over a decade ago, with tens of millions of gamers playing the phenomenon on platforms from Apple iPhone to Facebook. Now Bejeweled 3 has arrived, jam-packed with new modes and features.
It's not a reinvention of the addictive puzzle game formula. The game is still about matching three like-coloured gems to remove them from a game board, and flourishes introduced subsequently (such as the ability to swap gems while pieces are still falling, or matching four or more gems at once to create explosive gems) are all present in this iteration. Bejeweled 3 is developer PopCap's all-out attempt at building on the familiar, throwing as much new content at the wall as possible and seeing what sticks.
There are eight ways to play Bejeweled 3, including Quest mode, which serves as a collection of 11 smaller variants. Initially only four modes are available; the remaining four must be unlocked by meeting goals, like making it to level 5 in Classic mode (standard match-three Bejeweled), or scoring 100,000 points in Lightning mode (against the clock).
Some of Bejeweled 3's modes work better than others. Butterflies is an excellent addition that feels wholly new. You must stop multicoloured butterflies from reaching the top of the screen where a hungry spider lays in wait. The butterflies enter the board from the bottom, and each time you swap a gem they'll move up one space. By matching butterflies with gems of their colour, you free the butterfly from the board and prevent them from being eaten. It's an interesting and strategically deep twist; we put more time into it than Classic mode.
But Bejeweled 3 has some unnecessary duds, such as Diamond Mine - feeling almost entirely luck-based - and Ice Storm, an annoying and strenuous version of Butterflies.
One of the most advertised additions to Bejeweled 3 is the endless Zen mode, reportedly created with the help of scientists with expertise in biofeedback. The purpose is to help players relax, and it uses a combination of ambient sound, positive messages, and even a breathing pattern that players are encouraged to imitate to inspire calm. Although none of them made us feel particularly calm, the positive on-screen messages (including such truth bombs as "I have a destiny") did make us laugh.
Bejeweled 3: Pros and cons
Pros: Plenty of modes to fool around with, achievements to unlock, and buttery-smooth gameplay
Cons: Not all of those new modes are well thought out; Zen mode smells like bunk
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