Anyone who’s played any browser-based games has to have played a Popcap game at some point on their online travels. The majority of people I know who have a Facebook account have at some point dipped their toe in the water of social games that currently seems to be leaking all over the social network. Given Popcap’s reputation for making games that are easy to pick up, rewarding enough to encourage prolonged play and so addictive that you can lose years to them without leaving your chair, the social network and the game developer seemed a perfect fit for each other. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Bejewelled Blitz was released as a Facebook game early last year.
As part of this year’s Xbox Live Arcade House Party promotion, Microsoft decided to include an updated version; Bejewelled Blitz Live as its offering for the promotion’s second week. Coming in at a cost of 800 Microsoft Points (800) it features bonus gameplay not found in the Facebook version, such as a ‘Twist’ mode. Bejeweled Blitz Live hits upon the trend of beating your friends’ (and the world’s) high scores that caused the game to become so successful on Facebook.
Ridiculous Rubies – Popcap games are addictive. Seriously, they should develop clinics specifically for these games, as the amount of hours that can be lost in a single session is downright terrifying. This time around, instead of the more leisurely pace that Bejewelled usually offers, games are limited to 60 seconds, with the objective being to gain as high a score as possible within that time limit. Whilst this serves to make games more frantic, it also manages to ramp up the ‘just one more go’ factor of the game, which is where you’ll really start losing track of time. It’s a real plus point for the game that this feeling never really subsides. Each game is just as hectic and enjoyable as the last: the sign of a well-made and well-balanced game.
Excellent Emeralds – Blitz Live continues the tried-and-tested ‘match 3’ formula that has worked so well for the series. This time the game offers two different modes of play. First is the original (or classic) mode where you switch two gems at a time to create rows of three or more identical gems. Alternatively, you can play the ‘twist’ mode, where you choose 4 gems at once and spin them either clockwise or counter-clockwise whilst attempting to match them up. Whilst this second mode takes a while to get the hang of, once you do, it proves to be just as addictive as classic mode. With two excellent and long-lasting modes, you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Delicious Diamonds – Puzzle games are renowned for being slow-paced and laborious processes, where you have to have as much patience as intelligence to progress. Blitz Live blows this notion out of the water. This game is all about high scores. To do well, you will have to have eyes on every corner of the screen at all times, have your cursor constantly on the move, and be planning your next moves in advance. Popcap has aided the player by allowing them to switch gems as they’re falling, which allows the game’s fast pace to be maintained. Don’t expect a stroll in the park with this game; you’ll need to be on your toes the whole time.
Superb Sapphire – The biggest new addition to the Bejewelled series is multiplayer. Whilst Blitz on Facebook drove itself with leaderboards amongst your friends, the XBLA version expands on this with local versus matches and up to 16 player multiplayer online. Combined with the constant desire to destroy highscores, Blitz will surely keep you confined to your room, as you now not only have your own scores to beat, but your friends’ as well.
COLD AS COAL
Moves Like a Rock – To be honest, there is only one real issue that I can level at Bejewelled Blitz Live, and that is the controls. The simple fact of the matter is that an Xbox controller just isn’t as precise as a mouse, and especially so when you’re racing against the clock. However, this gripe is nowhere near being a crippling problem for the game, and instead merely serves as a minor inconvenience experienced from time to time, when you switch the gem next to the one that you wanted, costing you valuable seconds.
If you’ve played a Bejewelled game before, and didn’t like it, this game isn’t going to change your mind. If you did enjoy it, this game isn’t going to change your mind either, although it might excite it. The usual addictiveness of the Bejewelled series is multiplied by the addition of high scores and multiplayer, and the gameplay itself is as solid and enjoyable as it has ever been. Xbox Live’s House Party has offered up two strong games so far, and judging by the reviews for previous versions of the next two week’s offerings (Beyond Good and Evil HD and Torchlight), the fun is due to continue. Bejewelled Blitz Live more than holds its own amongst the other games, and is strongly recommended for fans of the series or fans of puzzle games in general.
- Jack Moulder
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