Bejeweled 3 ReviewLori May
Bejeweled 3 is the surprisingly addictive puzzle game by PopCap which was released in December of 2010. Players swap gems in order to make paths of like-colors disappear, thereby increasing the score and unlocking nifty graphics and special effects. Sounds simple, right? Well, if you've never sampled the "Bejeweled" franchise, whether on your PC or smartphone, you might be surprised by just how challenging this fairly simple concept can be.
When I first sampled this recent chapter in the Bejeweled franchise, I was surprised by the nostalgic feel of the game. Something in the graphics, sounds-and the voice actor sounds Optimus Prime, so that didn't help-and mechanics reminded me of the vintage PC games from the mid 90s, or even an upgraded version of "Columns" from the Sega Genesis platform. However, Bejeweled 3 isn't a "Tetris" style puzzle game at all. Instead, players finagle to line-up gems of the same color in series of three or more, better still a T or L shape. The more you line-up, the better the resulting explosion is-and the better your points, and bonus power-up.
Being a fan of vintage video games, I truly enjoyed the nostalgic appeal of "Bejeweled 3," almost as much as the puzzles. This is one of those games that creeps into your mind when you aren't looking, planting seeds of addiction which you aren't aware of until it's too late. The first time I played, I was mildly impressed, but I certainly didn't think I was hooked; by the third session, I admitted defeat, realizing this would be one PC game which will remain securely installed on my computer for me to play during an idle moment when I want to be oblivious to reality in lieu of shiny gems.
I won't lie-the explosions are pretty satisfying, too.
I was really impressed that the game offers Classic, Zen, Lightning and Quest play categories, each with a sub-category like Poker and Ice Storm. That's a broad range of options for any puzzle PC game, and Bejeweled 3 delivers each to at least modest satisfaction. Classic is great for beginners to the franchise, whereas Lightning pits the player against the clock to up the ante and really test your matching skills.
Another great thing about this video game is the ESRB rating of "Everyone." From little Timmy toddler to great Grandma Sharron, everyone in the family can enjoy this title-whether they're playing, or watching the pretty colors explode on the screen. It's also a great choice for entertaining a cat who insists on watching from your lap-just throwing that out there.
As with most puzzle games, Bejeweled 3 can simply lock the player out of moves. The first time I played, I selected the "Classic" version, only to receive the dreaded No More Moves' fail just three levels into play. That's just the luck of the draw, of course, but otherwise Bejeweled 3 functions very nicely. Zen isn't as relaxing or enjoyable as the name implies, but it's much more laid-back than the Lightning option. The ambient sounds and pseudo-mediation features are cute, but really too cheesy to be anything resembling "Zen."
As with many video games with that vague nostalgic appeal, Bejeweled 3 may disappoint players looking for phenomenal graphics or killer cut-scenes. This title isn't terribly dated in terms of looks and feel, but at times it does look like something which would have released new circa 2002 rather than 2011.
It's a shame multiplayer, either online or offline, hasn't been incorporated into Bejeweled 3 or its predecessors. Though, at this rate, gamers are probably more likely to see a social networking app with a multiplayer option before a PC-to-PC online version. The lack of an online leaderboard disappointed many long-time fans of the "Bejeweled" series, but personally that ranks very low on my list of requirements for a matching puzzle title.
As far as matching puzzles go, Bejeweled 3 shines above much of its competition. A lot of game play is packed into this single PC game, and the price is still hovering around $20 new-or $10 used, if you prefer that route. A fairly steep price as far as puzzle titles are concerned, but realistically you're getting several PC games worth of content with this one. The entertainment factor is high, and the lack of online leaderboards is partially redeemed by in-game unlockable achievements. Bejeweled 3 is great at what it is-a puzzle game with surprising difficulty, which allows gamers to lose minutes or whole hours at a time.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.