Review Date: December 7, 2010
Developer: Popcap Games
Publisher: Popcap Games
Platform: PC & Mac
There are match three games, and then there is Bejeweled. The crown jewel of the genre, we haven't seen a main entry in the series since Bejeweled 2 back in 2004. And while the series is known as the best match-3 experience around, somehow, the third entry manages to improve the formula. Bejeweled 3 is the best Bejeweled to date.
If you haven't played a Bejeweled game before (and if not, where have you been?) the basic concept is the same as every other match-3 game out there. You have a grid full of colored gems and you'll need to clear them away by matching groups of three or more. Matching large numbers of gems will earn you special power-ups that help clear away even more gems. It's pretty standard stuff, but what separates Bejeweled 3 is its wealth of game modes.
There are eight modes in total; four new, four returning. There's the classic mode, which has been in all previous games, where you simply match gems until you run out of moves, with the goal of racking up as high a score as possible. Zen mode plays out largely the same, though you can tweak the setting to make things a touch more relaxing. There are ambient sound effects and even breathing exercises to help put you in a meditative state. There's a lightning mode that's similar to Bejeweled Blitz, in which you have a minute to get as many points as possible. The difference here is that you can earn additional time by clearing out large groups of gems.
But most of your time will probably spent in the quest mode. Here you can take on a wide range of clever mini-game style puzzles that tweak the match-3 formula in creative ways. In one stage you'll have to eliminate a certain number of red and blue gems, while being careful to balance a pair of weights on the top of the screen. Another mode has you clearing out gems as a way to dig for gold. There are a few dozen of these stages, each of which will have you playing in a new way.
Poker And Ice
Those four modes are available from the start, but as play you'll unlock four additional modes, which range in quality. One mode will have you clearing away colored butterflies, which you'll have to do before they reach the hungry spider at the top of the screen. It's enjoyable and challenging and forces you to look at a the game in a new light. Same for the diamond mine mode, which is basically like a prolonged version of the aforementioned gold digging mini-game. Clearing out gems at the bottom of the screen will clear away dirt, which contains precious diamonds.
The other two modes aren't quite as engaging, however. The ice storm mode has you fighting the clock to keep rising blocks of ice from reaching the top of the screen, but it's much too difficult to be enjoyable for anyone but the most skilled of players. The poker mode, meanwhile, just isn't very fun. Here the goal is to match up similar gems to create a poker hand. Match three groups of the same color you get three of a kind, two groups two of a kind, and so on. Compared to the rest of the game the poker simply feels dull.
There are a few other complaints, as well. As great as the game looks and sounds, little has changed over the years. The gems look the same, the backgrounds look the same, and the announcer is the exact same. A bit of a visual makeover would have been nice. And given the recent wave of Facebook-fueled Popcap games, some sort of Facebook integration would have been perfect, adding a competitive feeling to the experience.
The Bottom Line
But while some social features and updated visuals would have been nice, Bejeweled 3 is still the best match-3 game on the market. The sheer wealth of game modes is incredible, as it the variety. This isn't just any match-3. There's something here for everyone, from classic game modes, to creative new ones, to punishingly difficult ones. Even if you think you've had enough of Bejeweled, the third entry in the series will drag you right back in.
Say good bye to your free time.