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Note: This review is based on the full retail version, not the free online version

Most puzzle games are variations of the granddaddy of all puzzle games, Tetris. In fact, many games haven’t really bothered altering the puzzle genre much since then. Bejeweled is a small game made by a company I never heard of, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t create a wildly addictive game. After becoming thoroughly obsessed with the free trial version, I decided to shell out 20 bucks for the full version. It’s far from being groundbreaking, but I could think of worse ways to spend 20 dollars.

In Bejeweled you are given a screen full of gems stacked into neat rows and columns. Your goal is to align 3 or more identical gems so they disappear. Gems that are next to each other can be swapped, but only if the swap lines up more than two identical gems. Basically all you have to do is click on two gems and create a line of 3 or more identical gems. It’s incredibly uncomplicated, so a learning curve is nearly nonexistent.

Only two modes are in Bejeweled. Normal mode is more dependent on luck than skill. You can move at your own pace without worrying about being timed or anything. The only possible way to lose is to run out of moves, making it impossible to swap any more gems. This could be classified as more of a training mode because the only purpose it served me was to warm up for the time trial mode.

The time trial mode is where you’ll get a challenge. Your goal is to remove gems as quickly as possible. If the time bar gets to bottom, you lose. The time bar increases whenever you remove some gems and if you manage to get this bar to the top, then it’s onto the next level. Not only does this mode require a keen eye to spot the possible moves, but it also requires a fast clicking finger. The challenge increases with each passing level. I enjoyed this mode immensely, but it also could be a bit frustrating. It gets too challenging awfully early in the game. This may discourage casual puzzle fans, but I like a challenge.

Puzzle game newbies will appreciate the “hint button.” Clicking this button while playing will result in a gem required for a move being highlighted. Clicking this hint button will cause you to lose points in the normal mode. In the time trials you lose time, which will cause you to lose rather quickly in the later levels. The hint button is an excellent idea that should prevent people from being frustrated, but relying on it won’t do any good. Another good thing is that the game saves your progress when you exit.

Bejeweled can be played in windowed mode, so you can chat with your friends and look for your favorite tunes to listen to while playing. Unfortunately, there is no pause button, so you have to go to “new game” in order to pause it. Make sure you don’t click “yes” or the game will restart. How amateurish of the developers.

No puzzle games that I am aware have pushed the envelope when it comes to graphics, and Bejeweled is no exception. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines bejeweled as “ornamented with or as if with jewels” and the gems in this title certainly deliver. They’re awfully shiny and tend to glisten much like actual jewels, do so I suppose that means that this game delivers in the graphics department.

The music in Bejeweled is the typical new-garbage that plagues most puzzle games nowadays. I heartily recommend listening to your own music while playing or you might go crazy. The sound effects are simplistic, consisting of simple “clinks” and “pshew’s.” I do find the sound you hear when you eliminate a few gems to be unusually satisfying.

If a puzzle game is addictive, then it has succeeded. The fact that Bejeweled is like virtual crack cannot be denied. When half of an architectural class was playing Bejeweled instead of working, you know the developers met their goal. Bejeweled is one of the few games that have kept me up till 2 in the morning trying to beat my high score. However, 20 dollars is a bit steep for this game since it only has two modes. I suggest just getting the trial version, unless you’re a hardcore puzzle fan.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @akarge.

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