What if I told you that one of the year’s biggest games had just been released to the public, and yet, most of those who consider themselves to be hard-core gaming fans have missed it? You see, for many a casual gamer, Bejeweled 2 is, by far, the most anticipated release of their year. However, those within the hard-core fraternity currently dismissing it as a title only appealing to the casual gamer, desperately need to take a closer look at this highly-addictive sequel.
For those unfamiliar with Bejeweled’s premise, simplicity is the name of the game. In the basic – and most popular mode – you start with a panel full of multi-colored gems. The goal is to exchange neighboring gems in order to form a vertical or horizontal line of three or more identical gems. Once matched, that line will clear from the screen and subsequently drop more gems into play. While not radical in terms of gameplay, the latest tweaks to ?massive gem-clearing’ in Bejeweled 2 bear mentioning. Although clearing a row of three gems is natural, stacking a row of four or five gems will create one of two different super gems respectively. A four gem stack forms a power gem. Power gems, when matched with two other gems of the same color, produce a blast that clears a sizeable eight gem grid around it. If you manage to create a five gem row, you’re then presented with a Hyper Cube. When swapped with an adjacent gem, the Hyper Cube then clears that gem, as well as every other matching gem on the entire board through multiple webbing bolts of lightning. Even if fairly tough to construct, Hyper Cubes are, without doubt, the loudest and most gratifying way of clearing gems.
Though these additions significantly change the way Bejeweled can be played, developers PopCap didn’t stop there. There are three additional gameplay modes presented from the start, and at least one hidden mode. Action mode provides a race against the clock, in which a timer bar continuously depletes. Every time you clear a row of gems, a small amount of bonus time is added to the bar. This play mode continues until the timer runs all the way down, after which your score is then tallied and compared to the previous highest scores. Endless mode speaks for itself; it’s a never-ending quest to clear as many gems and stages as possible. With stage advancement, you earn a jewel that’s placed in somewhat of a collector’s plate. Eventually, and at your own pace, you’ll have collected enough jewels to send P. Diddy reeling in ?bling-bling’ envy.
Puzzle mode provides perhaps the sequel’s toughest challenge, pitting your gem-matching skills against a prearranged stack of jewels. With no extra gems dropping into play, you must flawlessly clear all the gems from the board, with none left lingering. Every puzzle has a defined strategic solution, but discovering it can sometimes be little more than a matter of pure luck mixed with trial and error. Still, these added modes are certainly welcome, and add immense gameplay variety. It would have been splendid to have seen a multiplayer mode, too, or perhaps some breed of online component of posting scores – but, that aside, you really can’t argue with Bejeweled 2’s included content.
There really isn’t a prettier game for PDAs at this time. The graphics are strikingly bright for a small LCD screen. The resolution is ideal, allowing you to play comfortably with the PDA on your lap, without straining to read the text or navigate menus. Likewise, it’s easy to discern the assorted gem colors and shapes, even from a distance. The lightning bolts released from Hyper Cubes are particularly pleasing, and the planetary environment wallpapers that make up the playing field are equally high in resolution and color.
The game’s musical score is just phenomenal – nearly to the point of sounding orchestrated. Where most mobile games jingle with midi-based effects and music, Bejeweled 2 breaks the trend with a superbly soothing soundtrack. It evokes a sense of relaxation and meditation in the player that sounds comparable to the subliminal message tapes that claim to help you lose weight or quit smoking (?fess up PopCap?is this the real reason it’s so addictive?). While you can play equally as well with the game muted, the sound wonderfully complements the game and adds another high point to the experience.
Whilst I continue to clear gem after gem in a quest to best my high scores; listening to the dazzling, subliminal-like soundtrack – keep playing Bejeweled 2?you really, really like playing Bejeweled 2 – I highly urge even the most hard-core and extreme of gamers to give the game five short minutes of their time. Those five minutes could well become hours. At a decent price Bejeweled 2 is a faultless example of how even the most basic of games can be realized and executed to an impressively addictive standard.