Bejeweled 3 is a difficult game to review because it’s one of the few games that doesn’t need to be fixed in some way. The developers have the formula on such lockdown that it’s nearly impossible for them to screw it up. It works in the way that Tetris works, it survives in the way that Pac-Man survives. It will be around for years and years, taking on new forms, but always holding on to the classic gem matching gameplay mechanic that PopCap has perfected. At its core, Bejeweled 3 is perfect for what it’s trying to do. There’s no way to improve it.
And everyone knows Bejeweled 3. If you’ve had a cellphone in the last 10 years, you probably have or had Bejeweled on there. You’ve probably played it for free online. You’ve at the very least seen it in action. As a writer, it feels like I’m just wasting your time and my own saying Bejeweled 3 tasks players with creating rows of at least 3 matching gems across an 8×8 field. And that, like in the Bejeweled games before it, as you match and remove gems from the field, more fall from the top, giving you more gem matching opportunities.
Bejeweled releases only risk failure when they apply the classic formula to new modes, and Bejeweled 3 is no exception. While the gameplay in Bejeweled 3 is identical to the gameplay in every other version of Bejeweled, there are new game modes, some of which I found more enjoyable than others. Quest Mode is the most ambitious offering in the package, presenting 40 different challenges to players. The challenges contained in Quest Mode, which can be unlocked for play outside of Quest Mode by completing some easily achievable goals, are also the other additions to the game.
My personal favorite mode was poker, which requires players to create hands of cards by matching gems. Each matched gem set becomes a card in the hand and when the player has five cards, points are then awarded. It requires a slightly different type of strategy than the core game since you’re not trying to score the most points or create the maximum chain, but instead trying to clear several rows of the same colored gems. It also proved to be incredibly addictive. The mode is best when played in free play, though. When played as a part of the Quest Mode with score targets, success becomes less dependent on your skill as a player and more on how the gems fall on the screen.
My other major time sink with Bejeweled 3 was lightning mode and a variation on it, ice storm. Both task players with clearing as many pieces as possible during a set time limit, albeit with different objectives. In lightning mode, we’re to clear as many gems as we can as a timer dwindles down. Ice storm works in a similar way, but instead of a timer, four columns of ice work their way up the grid. As players break gems, the ice recedes, but if players are too slow, it’s game over. Both are fun because they bring out franticness from within the player, but ice storm adds to it by being maddeningly difficult. Though challenging, getting a high score in ice storm is an achievement worth celebrating.
On the other side of the spectrum, the new diamond mine mode was probably my least favorite. In this mode, the grid of gems is slightly smaller and in their place at the bottom of the screen is buried treasure. While the mode can provide all of the fun of the other modes, it often doesn’t. Since the goal is to clear gems along the bottom of the screen in order to dig up the buried treasure, if there are no moves along the bottom of the screen, you’re screwed. You waste your time trying to make some moves by clearing off the few that you can at the top, but most of the time, it’s to no avail. It’s worse in Quest Mode when the goals are slightly changed, but the mode can still be temperamental when played in free play.
Rounding out the big additions is Zen mode, a relaxing take on Bejeweled. There are no time limits and the board doesn’t reset like in classic mode. It’s an absolutely perfect mode to play when you’re chatting on the phone with someone, since you can take all the time in the world. Relaxing music plays to keep you calm, which the developers boast is included specifically to keep you relaxed. Heck, it even uses on-screen cues to tell you when to breathe, and they also blast encouraging messages at you.
But the bottom-line reveals that Bejeweled 3 does nothing unexpected. It is the same game that you’ve played before, with a fresh coat of paint and a couple of new modes. Some of the new additions are better than others, but even in the modes that fall flat, the game still remains an enjoyable and addictive time sink. If you’ve played and enjoyed previous Bejeweled games, you will likely find this one as pleasurable as past experiences.