Publisher: PopCap Games
Developer: PopCap Games
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points
Launch Date: 19th October 2011
PopCap Games have had a lot of success with the Bejeweled series. From Bejeweled 1 and 2, to the different Twist version and the fast paced Blitz, each game has provided entertainment to all puzzle fans that pick the titles up. Enter Bejeweled 3, with more features than its predecessors, does Bejeweled 3 live up to the standard of the series, or has it fallen from the mine-cart? Find out by reading this definite in depth review.
Game-play - 9/10
With any puzzle game, the main objective is to solve the challenges the game provides. In Bejeweled 3, players are once more tasked with making combinations of at least 3 gems, which are then added to the score and new gems take their place. Depending on which mode you are in, different requirements are present.
Unlike previous Bejeweled games with a handful of modes, Bejeweled 3 comes packed, with eight main modes and mini-games in some of them. Overall the game is entertaining and encourages players to keep trying to beat their own scores. You do need to unlock four of the modes, which are also tied to an achievement as well. A game with as much content as this is hard to sum up in one package, so let's dissect the game mode by mode.
Classic mode is exactly what it says in the name. It is the original untimed game, in which you have to score as many points as you can before running out of moves. As you progress through the levels the requirement to reach the next increases. When you are finally out of moves the game is over, and you have to begin again. Fans of the original games will be pleased with how true it has stayed to the original formula.
Lightning mode is basically the same as Bejeweled Blitz. You have one minute to score as much as you can. However with Lightning mode you can also earn more time, which is then added on at the end of the round. This also counts as your bonus multiplier. The longer and faster you can keep going, the better your score will become. It's a fast paced adrenaline filled game mode, which is very fun to try out. Players can end up spending a lot of time in this mode trying to last longer than they did before.
Quest mode lets you earn treasures
Quest mode is full of mini-games, all of which count towards finding treasure. Each treasure comes with 8 mini-games. 4 are required to be completed before moving onto the next one. These mini-games have objectives. Some of the mini-games are variants of other modes, such as Butterflies and Diamond Mine. Others are unique to the Quest mode, such as Buried Treasure, where players must uncover treasure by clearing the sand above them, Sandstorm, which is the same as the previous mode, but the sand can recover the items if you aren't quick enough. Balance is another mode which requires some more thought behind the moves, as you have to juggle red and blue combinations. If you do too many reds you will see the vial dropping down, and ultimately set the screen on fire. Likewise, blue will end up freezing you. Quest mode also introduces another mode which can be unlocked which is Poker.
Poker is another entertaining mode where players have to try to make poker hands. The hands available are a pair, spectrum (one of each type of gem), 2 pair, 3 of a kind, full house, 4 of a kind and flush. In addition to needing to make these hands, players also get skulls. These then need to be broken by earning points quickly, as they will put you into a coin flip. For example, if the pair hand contains a skull, then you get a pair, you will have to watch the coin flip. This decides if you are lucky and safe, or if it's the end of the game.
Zen mode offers a relaxing pace instead of the fast paced puzzles
Butterflies mode is classic mode with a twist. Some of the gems are butterflies, which will move up the board per move. The task to this mode is to clear the butterfly gems before they reach the spider at the top of the board. This mode can become extremely challenging, with a lot of butterflies on the go at once.
The scoring in this mode is all based on how deep you can get and how much gold, diamonds and treasure you can uncover in the time limit. To dig you must make matches next to the dirt and rocks to break through.
Ice Storm is a lot like the Lightning mode mentioned earlier, instead of time bonuses, you receive and ice bonus. There isn't a timer like on Lightning mode; instead you must stop the ice reaching the top of the board. This can be achieved by making matches vertically which will fully break the ice columns. The more ice columns you break the higher the multiplier goes. If you fail to stop the ice, the whole screen will freeze over with ice and the game ends.
Finally, we have Zen mode, which is the Endless mode from Bejeweled 2. Zen mode allows players to sit back and relax, working up the levels to the sounds of ambient music of their choice. It is a good feature to go side by side with the fast paced modes available. It also contains a Breath Modulator, to help people modulate their breathing rate and it helps create a sense of relaxation.
All of these modes make for an entertaining experience and it's hard to find faults with any of these modes. The only thing that could end up putting people off is in Quest mode. Some of the timers, especially on Sandstorm, can be quite hard to beat, however this is more down to the players skill and their luck, as opposed to a developer issue.
Ultimately, when you are trying to reach the blazing speed on lightning, you do feel it would be easier on a computer, but it is possible to achieve, if you are quick enough. It is also hard to say which mode would bring players back more and more on account of just the amount of content on offer. Quest mode boasts over 10 different mini-games, all of which progressively grow harder as you reach the final treasures.
In all of these modes you are able to create the hyper-cubes by matching 5 gems in a row, a star gem by getting 5 in a L shape, and flame gems, by getting 4 in a row. These gems all help you get higher combos and scores, as all of them destroy more gems.
Also included in this game is a badge system. There are a total of 15 badges you can get from bronze up to platinum in, for things such as clearing 400 star gems to earn a gold badge, or scoring 750,000 in Ice Storm for platinum. Alongside these 15 badges are 5 Elite badges. These are award for bigger feats and challenges, such as clearing Quest mode completely or reaching a Bejeweled rating of 40.
If you aren't fast you will meet a chilly situation
Graphics - 8/10
The Bejeweled series has always been full of bright vibrant colours, and it's a colour system which has always worked well with the style of gaming. It's great to see that PopCap Games have stayed true to this system. It isn't just the gems which are pleasing eye candy. A lot of effort has been put into each background to make them feel unique to the player. Most of these backgrounds will feature movement if you look closely. For example, the main menu has clouds rolling in the background; one of the in-game backgrounds features a tower with a waterfall cascading over its edge.
For the most part however, player's eyes will be on the board itself looking for matching gems. As in the predecessors of this game, the gems are bright colours which make it easier to differentiate between each gem. This mixed with the backgrounds however works superbly; as it adds a contrast so it isn't bright enough to hurt you're eyes while playing.
The breathing modulator found on the Zen mode features a slider going up and down, representing when you should breath in and out. This is not so clear as it is behind the games board and is faded, which ultimately is easy to miss. This feature probably will go unused however as most people will just breath normally.
As stated earlier in the review, hyper-cubes, flame gems and star gems are present and each is different graphically. The flame gems look like normal gems with the addition of fire around them. When they are used they explode and take out the gems nearby. The colour of the explosion is dependant on the colour of the gem. Star gems blast lightning out vertically and horrizontally, and again the lightning will be the same colour as the gem. Finally, the hyper-cubes will look like multi-coloured cubes which will send lightning to each colour that you select,wiping them clean from the board. The old formula and colour system still works to this day, and while some may feel it is too bright, it is a formula that should remain unchanged.
Sound - 8/10
As always with a Bejeweled title, the music is for the most part, calm and relaxing. In some of the modes it's slightly at a faster pace to help the player feel the rush of urgency to get an objective complete in time. Some modes contain other sounds on top of the background music. A prime example is the Balance mini-game found in Quest mode. If the red vial fills more than the blue, it begins to lower. The lower it gets the louder the roar of flames grows. Likewise, if the blue gets lower then an icy wind can be heard. Ice Storm mode features the sound of ice setting, while Diamond Mine lets you hear the rocks smash as you dig deeper and deeper.
Zen mode however has the best feature in regards of sound. It allows players to choose an ambient track to have playing in the background as they work on their score. Some of this tracks include sounds you can hear on the coast, or listening to the ocean or a waterfall. PopCap Games know that water sounds have a calming effect on people, and this is clear with the water related ambient sounds.
A downside to the ambient sounds however is that to get the full effect, you would need to mute the games music before putting the ambient on full, otherwise they mix and the overall effect is lost. This is however easy to remedy, and with the fact that the ambient soundtracks tone down the volume of the explosions anyway, is easy to overlook.
The background music to the Lightning mode, as stated above, is more fast paced in comparrison to the other modes. This is understandable as Lightning mode is all about quick reactions, and the music does ultimately help out as it helps build that adreneline rush while the timer goes down. The same can be said about Ice Storm, however the background music takes a backseat thanks to the sound effect of the ice freezing the board completely.
Bejeweled meets gambling in an interesting twist
Achievements - 7/10
The achievement list for Bejeweled 3 is a big improvement over that of Bejeweled 2. Bejeweled 2 featured harder achievements. Thankfully, PopCap Games went over the list for this instalment and made most of them easier. You have standard progression achievements such as unlocking all the modes and obtaining an Elite badge. Others need more skill and speed, such as getting an x5 multiplier in Ice Storm, or blazing speed in a Lightning game.
Probably the achievement which will take the longest is completing all the common badges to gold level or higher, worth a big 70G. While some may be harder than others, the majority can be obtained easily enough. Even without them, the game can easily pull people back to play over and over.
Players can definately get the 130G easily enough, but the 70G for the badges will prove tougher. A prime example of how luck based some aspects of the game are would be the Poker related badges. For a bronze badge, players must earn 10 flushes. While this doesn't sound hard, they are in practise hard to set up and more often than not, players will only wind up with 4 of a kind at best for the majority of attempts.
But that is what makes this list so good, it wouldn't be a puzzle game if there wasn't an achievement that demands as much skill as this one does. There could've been another hard achievement tied into something such as reaching an overall rating of 40, to tie in with one of the Elite badges. This game could've also had some avatar awards as a nice touch and serve as an extra reward.
Bejeweled 3 not only lives up to the standard of its predecessors, it exceeds them in flying colours. From the Classic mode to the fast paced Lightning mode, Bejeweled 3 is continuous fun and is a recommended purchase. Avatar awards would've been a nice touch, but the entire package that you get is still one worth having. Sadly, the 1200MSP price tag might put people off buying the game, which is a shame as it's proven to be a really entertaining experience. PopCap Games have done a great job with this addition to the Bejeweled series and players can easily find themselves losing hours playing it.