There can be no other explanation for it. PopCap, the people behind such awesome games as Bejeweled, Peggle and Zuma, are obviously inherently evil. In fact, they're probably solely responsible for causing the recession by distracting people from doing their work with their time-swallowing games. I, too, was nearly a victim of their games, spending several million hours playing Bejeweled Blitz before I got round to writing this review. Maybe I should start up "PopCap Anonymous".
The problem is, Bejeweled Blitz suffers from the same 'one more go' syndrome as the previous PopCap games - but this time, it's to the extreme. Based on the popular Facebook game, the "Blitz" of Bejeweled Blitz comes from only having sixty seconds to score the most points possible - and it's far easier to fit in another sixty seconds here and there rather than the five minutes it'd take to do a Peggle level. Far, far too easy.
Bejeweled Blitz plays much like any other match three game - presented with an array of gems, you need to swap them around to make horizontal or vertical lines of identical gems to make them disappear. The faster you can make matches, the more your speed multiplier will increase, meaning you can get even more points simply for being quick off the mark. Making matches of four or five of the same coloured gems will not only net you an even bigger score, but also reward you with bonus gems, which either explode, taking out everything nearby, explode taking out everything in a straight line both up/down and left/right, or, if you've made a match of five, take out every gem of the same colour as the one you've just switched with. Nice.
There are two different modes to choose from here, with 'Classic' playing just like you're used to, where you swap two gems round to make groups horizontally or vertically; and 'Twist', which plays a bit like built-in Xbox game Hexic HD, as you now control a square of gems which you can rotate clockwise or anti-clockwise to make matches.
Well shake it up baby, now, twist and shout.
If you've played Bejeweled 2, Puzzle Quest, or just about any other match three type games on the Xbox, the controls in Bejeweled Blitz will take a bit of getting used to. Instead of selecting a gem, pushing the direction you want to move with the left stick, and pressing A, in Bejeweled Blitz, the gem swapping has been mapped to the A, B, X and Y buttons for down, right, left and up respectively - and while this might initially make you go 'eek', once you get used to it, it quickly fits like an old glove (look at the layout of the buttons on the controller if you have trouble seeing how it'll work) and, critically, helps you move faster than the old control scheme. Although I did find it a bit harder getting my head round these controls when it came to playing 'Twist', thankfully, you can use LT and RT to rotate in the corresponding directions, rather than A and B.
The achievements seem more gettable this time round too - with Bejeweled 2, if you had more than 10G on it, you were some sort of legend. On Bejeweled Blitz, I have 65G - although I think it might stay at that for a while now, seeing as I'm unlikely to break 300,000 points any time soon, and I rarely reach 200,000 points as it is, let alone in back to back games. Oh, and I suck at Twist. If you're struggling figuring out what to do, there are two free videos available for download on the Xbox Live Marketplace, entitled 'How to Get High Scores' and 'How to Make Special Gems', which I still have to get round to watching - but it's nice to think that help's at hand.
As with a lot of the match three type games, you'll often find yourself falling into a trap where you just can't see any matches - even though you know there are some out there. That's why Bejeweled Blitz comes with a handy hint option, which will highlight a match for you with a press of LB. It does have a recharge time though, so you can't use it constantly, even if we do find ourselves willing it to recharge faster...
Online multiplayer has been added this time round too, and while it's nothing to write home about, it's a nice addition. Choosing between either Classic or Twist, you and up to 16 of your friends can play online in the new Party mode, which is basically Bejeweled Blitz with a leaderboard of your friends at the side telling you how close they are to your score. There's also an online and offline Battle mode, where the main difference is that you can now see your opponents board while you battle it out for the most points.
Both Classic and Twist can be played in the Battle mode too.
My only gripe is that there doesn't seem like an awful lot to it, considering the asking price of 800 Microsoft Points (about £6.80) as there are only the two modes - the original Bejeweled 2 had four modes, plus another four unlockable ones for the same price. That said, I don't feel ripped off, and I've played it just as much - if not more - than the other game. I may even go so far as to say I like this game better. Just don't buy it if you value your social life.
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