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Bejeweled Blitz Live Review

Bejeweled Blitz was a massively successful Facebook game so its a little strange to see it manifest on Xbox Live. The game has appeared on almost everything with a screen. With the social networking version being so popular, is there any reason to revisit this venerable puzzler on home console when so many other versions are available? The answer is a cautious yes.

Why the caution? Well because Bejeweled is one version of a “genre” known as match three games which originated with the inception of Russian puzzler Shariki. The fundamental gameplay differences between this progenitor and its successors is minimal. Whether you’re playing a version of Bejeweled, Jewel Quest, Puzzle Quest or Aurora Feint, chances are you’re doing basically the same thing: switching two jewels positions to create lines of three jewels of the same colour. With these games available on almost every platform and often for free, Bejeweled Blitz Live has to work hard to justify its 800 Microsoft points price.

It goes without saying that if you don’t like match three games then you won’t like this. There’s no getting away from the DNA of the game which is as enduring as Tetris or Columns (everyone forgets Columns). Although modern versions of Tetris have evolved the formula and provided a great many different modifiers to the base gameplay, Bejeweled is much more conservative focusing on the two basic gameplay modes, classic and twist. While classic allows two jewels to be switched, twist selects four jewels at a time and allows them to be rotated to match three jewels of the same colour.

The main feature of Blitz is the competitive element. While traditional match three games typically include a timer and score attack form of gameplay, Blitz introduces a competitive element with two players competing to achieve the highest score within a time limit. This creates an adrenaline filled face off as each player scrambles to find the highest scoring moves.

Within the first few games of Bejewled Blitz Live the advantages of the home console platform are apparent. The aforementioned desperate search for matching three’s is enhanced with a dramatic countdown and up-tempo dance music building to a crescendo as the time ticks away. The increased graphical fidelity of the Xbox over handheld or web based versions allows for exploding jewels and escalating vision spectacle as the players score builds. Along with this, the netcode seems reliable and finding games is quick and easy.

Most inviting to me personally was the overall presentation of this version of Bejewlled. The visual spectacle of slightly over-the-top visual flourishes and mid-nineties dance music wrapped up in a humourless package trying for some kind of facade of coolness reminded me of early PSone games. While this may sound like a criticism, it reminded me of the best puzzlers of the day like Puzzle Fighter, Puzzle Bobble and another PSone game I can’t remember the name of for the life of me (help?).

So 800 MS points for another version of Bejeweled then? Well, if it’s a version with stable, addictive multiplayer, ridiculous but great looking visuals and silly-but-super dance tunes count me in.

7 jewels in a row out of 10

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