Bejeweled. Mention that name to some hardcore gamers, and you'll be told that it was a brilliant puzzle game. Mention that same name to casual gamers, and some of them will say that it was the reason they got into gaming in the first place. It has been heralded as one of PopCap's first big hits and brought a formula to puzzle games that has been heavily imitated in the console, portable, PC and mobile phone worlds for quite some time. Some failed to capture the spark created by the title, while others have been successful in adding a few changes to the formula. Interestingly enough, while some of the clones have made it to the system, the original game and the sequel never appeared on the Nintendo DS. When PopCap finally decided to put the game on the system, it opted for the sequel, which has the spirit of the original but very different mechanics. The result is Bejeweled Twist, and while it is superficially different, the same fun and addictive nature for which the game is known remains strong in this iteration.
At its core, the gameplay remains the same. You are presented with a grid of jewels and a meter to fill up. You move the jewels so that there will be at least three of them matching horizontally or vertically, causing them to disappear. The match will fill up a bit of the meter and cause more jewels to come in from the top. You continue until the meter is full and once this is accomplished, the level ends, the scores are tallied, and you proceed to the next level to do the same thing again.
This time, the key difference is how you match the jewels. The previous titles had you swap only one jewel at a time in any direction. This one gives you a spinner that lets you swap four jewels at a time, but only in a clockwise fashion. The game also removes the requirement that all moves must create a match. Both of these changes are huge; they open up the game and give you some room to be creative with matches and set up cascades. There are benefits to going with the more traditional "one move, one match" method, and that comes in the form of the multiplier. You can build a large point multiplier if you make consecutive matches, but it will drop significantly if the next move you make fails to create a match.
Bonus jewels have been a hallmark of the game for some time, and Bejeweled Twist expands on that greatly by introducing both good and bad bonuses into the mix. Flame gems are created when a match of four is made. Once detonated, the match and jewels surrounding it get caught up in an explosion for some good bonus points. A match of five creates a lightning gem that destroys one row and column when matched. Getting a match of six will create a supernova gem that has the same powers as the lightning gem but destroys three rows and columns instead of just one.
There's also the elusive fruit gem, which, if matched, destroys all of the gems on the board of the same color, unlocks all locked gems, and adds more time to bomb gems, which must be "defused" by being matched before its timer runs out. Once the timer runs out, you'll have to play a minigame where a good match kills the bomb and a bad match ends the game. Locked gems cause one gem on the board to be locked in that position, preventing you from being able to move it, though it can be erased by involving it in a match. Coal appears on the board and can only be destroyed with the special gems in order to receive bonus points.
Finally, there's the doom gem, which acts the same as the bomb gem except for the fact that it can only be destroyed by special gems and the game is immediately over once its timer expires. The balance of both the good and bad bonus gems and the rule changes help maintain the gameplay balance that has made the game synonymous with addiction. Players will need to have strong willpower or completely drain their batteries before they stop playing.
There are four different available modes, two of which are immediately playable. Classic mode is the heart of the game, as it features all of the bonus gems to contest exactly how long you can endure before a bomb or doom gem finally ends your game. Zen mode is the same as Classic mode, except the bad bonus gems are missing. It is practically the same as Endless mode in the previous games, so those who appreciate the simple nature of gem-matching will feel right at home here. The other two modes can only be opened through Classic mode, but you are more likely to open them on your first playthrough due to their low unlock requirements. Blitz mode is a truncated version of Classic mode that has you achieving the high score in just five minutes; it's good for a quick fix or a challenge if you don't feel like devoting a good chunk of time to the game. The other mode, Puzzle, challenges you to clear board after board using a finite amount of moves. Just like the older games, this one is challenging and will really give your brain a workout so be prepared to spend large amounts of time on just one puzzle if you go for this mode.
Multiplayer is new to the series and works out pretty well here. The rules are the same as in single-player Classic mode, except for the fact that you have a bomb meter at the bottom of the screen. For every six consecutive matches you make, you send a bomb to the opponent which, if not cleared, drops his or her progress meter significantly. Whoever can fill up his meter the fastest will be deemed the winner. The experience is a multi-cart one, so it is pretty limiting if only one of you has the game but at least the lag is nonexistent. One bonus is specifically for DSi owners. If you or a friend happens to have the DSiWare version of the title, you can compete with anyone else who owns the cart version of the game, opening up things a bit if you or someone you know would rather take this as a downloadable title instead of a full retail game.
Controls are very important for games in this genre, and Bejeweled Twist remains flexible and simple in how the player interacts with it. The game supports a more traditional control scheme, with the spinner being moved by the d-pad and the A button used to initiate the spins. The touch-screen functions entirely the same way, with screen taps both determining where the spinner goes and when it should spin. While it is nice to have both methods available for players, the touch-screen will definitely be the preferred method simply because the menus and bomb defuse screens can't be done with buttons. It is a strange oversight, so be warned if you love the physical controls instead of the touch-screen.
Graphics aren't usually important in a puzzle game, but what's seen here isn't too bad at all. Everything is presented with a space theme as each round is portrayed as a trip from planet to planet. It is curious to see the planets be cube-shaped, and the spaceship itself isn't exactly the prettiest one out there, but these are all minor details. The gems are all immediately recognizable, and that's all that counts here, especially since they retain a good level of detail as seen in the game's PC counterpart. Particle effects, though, are pretty pixelated so don't expect the lightning bolts or explosions to wow you when they appear.
Like the previous titles, the sound retains a calmness rarely seen in puzzle titles. The music is a good fit for the theme of space, and while it is more upbeat than previous titles, it never seems to make the player feel nervous even when bombs and other dangerous gems are in play. The matching sounds are the same ones found in the previous games, so the familiar effects make it blissful to the ears. Interestingly, cascade matches don't have as much vigor thanks to the toning down of the bass so players expecting to have their DS speakers rocked when big matches occur will be disappointed. One thing that has been retained, though, are the voice announcements. Like big matches, the bass isn't quite there when the voices come on, but they can still be heard amid the explosions from big matches.
Once again, Bejeweled Twist proves to everyone that PopCap can make significant changes to its games and still come away with a great puzzle title. The theme may feel like a strange fit, but there's no denying that the addictive nature of the game is present and as infectious as before. Puzzle game fans of all types should have no excuse as to why this title isn't already in their game libraries, and those who may have grown tired of the original's often-copied formula may find themselves loving the new changes in Bejeweled Twist.
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