Bejeweled Twist

If there’s one thing that PopCap do extremely well, it’s waste time, the sort of time that you want to waste. But does Bejeweled Twist waste it any better than its predecessor?

If there’s one thing that PopCap do extremely well, it’s waste time. Not their time, your time. My time. Time that could be spent doing productive things like working or washing the dog. If PopCap didn’t exist; if ridiculously, insanely addictive games like Bejeweled and Peggle didn’t exist, the whole world would get more done. Thanks to PopCap, office life has changed forever.

Some of my work colleagues – myself included – are actively trying to avoid PopCap as much as possible. We like our jobs, you see. And being addicted is never a good thing, especially for serious game reviewers like myself. I’m supposed to be addicted to other games like Halo or Half-Life.

But Bejeweled is so simple and entrancing in its nature that it sucks you in and never lets go. The magic of match-three is beguiling beyond any game I’ve ever played in my life. It’s nearly impossible to walk away, to close the browser and just say “I’m done”.

Bejeweled Twist, on the other hand, is far too easy to walk away from.

I guess PopCap felt they had to revitalise the Bejeweled formula to keep things fresh. Unfortunately, what they’ve done is simply copy ideas that work better in other games, going against the PopCap style that’s earned them so much money.

Bejeweled Twist is Bejeweled and Hexic in one game. But if one side loses out from this merger, it’s definitely Bejeweled: Hexic isn’t addictive. The elements in Hexic aren’t addictive, and while Bejeweled brings more simplicity and the superb presentation, it counts for nothing if it doesn’t have that X-factor, that intangible nature that keeps you playing hour after hour.

The basic nature of the game hasn’t changed. You’re still matching three, four or more gems in a row with the difference in how you match the gems. Instead of selecting an individual gem and moving it to an adjacent square, you now select four gems at once and rotate them all clockwise. It’s clockwise only by the way, a move which will aggravate you if you’re trying to set a chain of gems together.

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So instead of forcing every move to match up three or more gems in a row, you’ll make a lot of moves that don’t match up anything. And that changes the structure of how the game’s played, because you don’t lose when you can’t make anymore moves.

Enter Hexic and it’s boring nature. After you play through a few levels, bombs will be introduced. These are gems that have a counter on them starting from 20. After twenty moves, the bomb will explode and the game will end. That’s what happens in Hexic at least, but in Twist you’ve got three lives. On top of that, every bomb brings up a “wheel of fortune” offering you a shot to avoid the bomb explosion anyway. Sure, it makes it easier, but that makes you play for longer and that’s part of the appeal of a PopCap game.

There’s additional obstacles as well, like rocks – gems that require flame gems to explode near by, another feature taken from Hexic – as well as locked gems that you can’t move. Other game modes like Zen let you play without losing, while Blitz – a five-minute high-score mode – exist too. Regardless, you’ll probably play this mostly for the Classic mode pitting you up against the bombs.

And you won’t be as hooked. That’s a shame for PopCap, who reportedly spent US $1 million on making Bejeweled Twist as good as the original. But a flop shouldn’t hurt them too much; after all, Bejeweled and Bejeweled 2 made US $300 million.

Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: BigPond GameArena
Classification: G
Formats: PC/MAC
URL: Bejeweled Twist

Reviewed by Alex Walker