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Following on from Peggle and completing our PopCap double-header, this week I have been mostly playing Bejeweled 2. Like Peggle, the Bejeweled series are epically popular and if you own almost any form of computing hardware or spend any time online then it's likely that you've played it.
However, for the benefit of the boy in the bubble... Bejeweled 2 is a simple puzzle game which involves an 8x8 grid of different coloured jewels. You can swap any two adjacent jewels if, in so doing, you create a line of at least three matching jewels. When you match a line, the jewels concerned disappear and replacements fall from the top.
Big scores and rapid level completion is best achieved through trying to set off chains of multiple matches resulting from jewels moving down into a match. Sometimes these 'cascades' happen naturally as the random replacement jewels fall into matches. Making a line of four leaves behind a shining jewel which, when involved in a match, explodes to remove a certain amount of the surrounding jewels. Making a line of five creates a Hyper Cube which, when swapped with any adjacent jewel (regardless of whether it makes a line or not), will remove all jewels of that type on the screen.
The closest I came to relaxation was the onset of a wave of docile pessimism.
The iPod/iPhone version of Bejeweled 2 offers two game modes (well three to be precise, but one is not really a game mode so much as a nothing mode - see below), Classic and Action. In Classic mode levels are cleared by filling a bar at the bottom of the screen and the game ends when you can make no more moves. Action mode pits you against the clock, starting you with a half-full bar which steadily depletes over time. Here there is always a move available, but the game ends when the bar runs out.
The layout is clear and bright and well suited to the Touch and you can play in portrait or landscape (either way up [smiley face]). Controls-wise, you move the jewels by touching on them and sliding or flicking them in the required direction. The scheme works surprisingly accurately, even for someone with cigars for fingers like me, and soon enables fast play. Everything is well thought out and intuitive and feels at home on the Touch.
As eluded to above, there is also Endless mode, which removes any threat that the game might end and, as the name suggests, leaves you endlessly (and pointlessly) moving jewels around. It's like a weird, post-modern deconstruction of the game with all purpose and indeed pleasure removed. PopCap imply in their literature that the mode is relaxing and good for beginners, but I would ardently testify to the falsity of the first of those statements. The closest I came to relaxation was the onset of a wave of docile pessimism, and apart from that the experience mostly made me ridiculously frustrated.
Bejeweled is a classic, addictive puzzle game which has been very nicely, if fairly unspectacularly, ported onto the Touch.
As for it being good for beginners, while that makes sense on one level, it also involves a very bizarre kind of logic. It's like saying that playing on a table with no pockets is good for beginner snooker players, or that people new to Mario should play a game in which he just endlessly runs and jumps. I really don't think Bejeweled is so complex that you need to practice simply moving the jewels around in an artificially inert environment. All the more frustrating is the fact that Endless takes up space that another mode might have occupied, like the unbelievably addictive one minute Blitz version, available to play on a popular social networking site that shall remain nameless. Facebook.
Bejeweled is a classic, addictive puzzle game which has been very nicely, if fairly unspectacularly, ported onto the Touch. While I'd recommend purchasing it to anyone who does a lot of gaming on their Touch/iPhone, I have to be honest about the fact that I'm currently much more into the Blitz version available to play for free on the aforementioned site (although, frustratingly, not through Safari on the Touch/iPhone). Fingers crossed for an update that switches that in for Endless.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: