Bejeweled 3 Review (PC)

Looking over the last 10 years in ‘casual’ gaming, there is one title that has been repeatedly hailed as the pinnacle of mass appeal, Pop Cap’s Bejeweled. The concept is simple, match sets of 3 or more jewels in a square grid to score points. The original game didn’t stray too far away from these basic beginnings, other than some special abilities for chaining together gems in quantities larger than 3. The sequel Bejeweled 2, and its two spin offs Blitz and Twist, expanded these ideas even more, and fast became the defining title in Pop Cap’s collection.

With this in mind, is Bejeweled 3 really necessary? In a word yes, as along with some of the most action packed modes Pop Cap has ever conceived, the highly anticipated Zen Mode adds a whole new dimension to the puzzle game. There are 8 modes on offer here, and many will be surprised at just how different each plays. Quest Mode is probably the most substantial, incorporating all the main play styles, along with ones exclusive to the mode. With 40 stages to get through, each test how you manage your gems, with increasingly more difficult scenarios designed to expand your knowledge of how to succeed in Bejeweled. This is just the tip of the iceberg though, when you split apart the more impressive modes to be played.

Quest Mode allows you to see every gameplay style Bejeweled 3 has to offer in one place

Lightning Mode is the most hectic mode of the bunch, forcing you to match gems while against the clock. Starting out with just 1 minute, you must match special time gems in order to earn bonus time once the clock runs out. This process repeats until you no longer have any extra gems left, the frantic ticking that accompanies every stage becoming more and more madness inducing. Bejeweled does modes like this very well, searching up and down the board for matches when you are on limited seconds is as exhilarating as puzzle games can be.

Things take on an icy form in Ice Storm, where columns of water rise to the top of the screen, with only matches of gems forcing them back downwards again. Unlike Lightning where the clock ticking is very precise while the rising blocks are harder to predict, and so the action is even more intense. Matching columns of gems destroys a whole ice structure, while rows simply move them down, which adds a whole new dimension to the tactics Bejeweled 3 already has in place. Ice Storm takes a much longer time to master than lightning though, a fact sure to please any hardcore Bejeweled fans.

The most substantial new mode featured in Bejeweled 3 though, is undoubtedly Zen mode. A mixture of relaxation and meditation, achieved through soothing soundscapes, on screen breathing cues and even headphones that play slightly differing frequencies in order to sooth you effectively. The idea may seem slightly weird at first, due to the nature of Bejeweled’s fast paced gameplay and intense action throughout, but Zen mode is a genuine pleasure to experience. It lets you play the game from a completely new standpoint, with the on screen cues being as subtle or obvious as you like. Breathing regularly relieves the stress of searching for new gems to match, and allows you to take a broader look at the board in front of you. Though it can be argued as to whether the soothing ocean tones, and the headphone frequencies actually work, one thing is certain, Zen Mode is a totally new take on the puzzle formula.

Ice Storm is the toughest mode in the game, switching between columns and rows can become tricky

The other main change in Bejeweled 3 is in the presentation. Improved to no end over 2, the graphical style and menu systems have that polish that Pop Cap have been striving to perfect for years. Though the actual visuals are merely sets of brightly coloured gems, these are undoubtedly the best looking gems you can hope for. The audio design is as stellar as always, the sound effects being bold and prominent, sounding even better than the company’s last Bejeweled games. The music can grate as always, but outside of this, Bejeweled 3 is the best looking and best sounding game in the series yet.

This thought is reflected across the game as a whole too. While Pop cap haven’t changed up too many of the fundamentals that make Bejeweled what it is, they have instead added some modes that feel either superior or wholly unique when compared to other puzzle games on the market. Though some will be happy sticking with the various other versions of this now legendary series, those who need just a little more depth in their puzzle titles can do no wrong with Bejeweled 3.

Best Game Moment: Scoring one of those combos that never ends is enjoyable as always.

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