I have always been a fan of computer puzzle games ever since a fateful encounter in the 90's with a Nintendo Gameboy and a certain game called Tetris. I wish I could recover those lost hours of my life playing said Russian classic, along with other puzzle pixelizations over the years. Columns, Plotting, Klax, Minesweeper and many more have since been a source of relaxation for me, and during the last few years, Popcap's Bejeweled. The girlfriend recently got given a Nintendo DSi by her wonderful and handsome boyfriend, (Erm..) who's proceeded to commandeer the machine playing this version of Bejeweled, and a fine adaptation it is too. Here are my thoughts on Bejeweled Twist on the Nintendo DSi.
--Bedazzled by Bejeweled--
Originally created and released by Popcap Games, Bejeweled popped up in 2001 as a Flash-based online game. Like Tetris, it was based very closely on a Russian developed game called Shariki from 1988. The concept of the game is very straightforward. You have a 8 x 8 grid of 6 different coloured jewels, and have to match lines of three or more make them disappear and more jewels fall down into the grid. Doing this well gains points, multipliers and bonuses. You acheive this by swapping two jewels over from their positions next to each other, and you have to get a match of three or more for the move to be successful. Bejeweled Twist uses the same basic layout and matching concept, but instead of swapping jewels one by one, you have a cursor that highlights blocks of four jewels, that you turn by 90 degrees to match the jewels up. Unlike the normal version, this move can be done without achieving a match, but will lose you points is you do this.
Bejeweled Twist was released on various platforms in 2008, but I only became aware of it recently. The different aspect of the way the jewels are matched make it much more enjoyable than the original on the face of it, and opens up different game modes and targets in the process. Popcap, who are now under Electronic Arts, (as most game developers now seem to be), publish the game and have developed it with Griptonite Games. The game comes with a clear instruction booklet, that's easy to read and familiarises you with the operation of the game. It's also translated into French and Dutch, and runs on all versions of Nintendo DS.
--Cost and Packaging--
As expected, this game comes to you in the rather oversized (and a bit wasteful) Nintendo DS cartridge box. It's a translucent plastic case about 17 times bigger than the cartridge! The DS game box design reminds me of the older cases for the Amstrad GX4000 or the Atari Lynx from the 90's. Massive cases for very minuscule cartridges. The upshot of this is a very robust case, and great for storing neatly too, but still I think a bit of overkill in this day and age. (Super Nintendo cartridges came in card boxes that were almost the same size as the game, and that was also back in the 90's. A lot less wasteful.)
Eco-rant over, it's all nicely presented. A nice futuristic image of spinning jewels adorn the front sleeve along with the familiar Bejeweled style title. All the required information is on the reverse, and small screen shots add to this. As with many premium DS games, the price is a set £25, but I'm sure trawling the auction sites you may find it cheaper.
When you first start playing, you have to create a profile for yourself so the game can store your achievements. There are only 3 spaces for this, so personally I would like more, but this is a small negative. The game loads quickly and gets to the main menu screen in under 5 seconds. The layout on the lower screen is clear and in loud colours, but is not glaring. It's all set in a space-age type theme, the upper screen showing an animated Bejeweled title screen. Selections are simple, just 'play', 'settings' and so forth. The next screen is choosing the game type, and presented in the same clear layout. The game screen for all the modes is basically the same, but the upper screen can change depending on the mode.
Like the original game, matching 4 or more jewels creates special jewels. In 'Twist', these are similar. Unlike the original however, you get randomly appearing 'killer' gems that make your progress harder. Bomb Gems are the most common, and count down on every move you make. Doom Gems are similar, but can't but matched. If either of these explode, it's game over. Coal Gems can't be matched but give you extra points if blown up. Lock Gems are the most annoying, as you cannot move them or the jewels they surround. Special jewels are used to in the game to combat these gems. The Flame Gems explode by matching it, the Lightening Gem blasts out single vertical and horizontal lines of jewels. The Supernova Gem does this too, but threefold! (but is very difficult to get). The Fruit Gem makes special things happen to other jewels on the board, some explode or give you more time with the Bomb and Doom Gems. A big aspect of the gameplay is points scoring, and this is achieved more quickly with chain matches and multipliers. I'll let you work out how this is done, no spoilers here!
#1 Classic - In this mode, you have to achieve the highest points you can. There is a points bar at the side which requires completing by scoring points. The more points you score, the higher the level you get too. It's a nice place to start playing the game, as the difficulty increases at a steady level, but it does become very difficult after around level 12. I have set myself personal targets on this mode, and it's quite satisfying to get them too. Also, you have free range of the game board and no time limit, so you can pretty much do what you want. Classic mode is the only mode available when you first play the game. Getting to specific target unlocks the other game modes.
#2 Zen - This mode is basically Classic mode without the killer gems, and is themed like you are travelling from planet to planet. This is a endless mode, with the levels just getting longer and longer requiring a higher points tally. There's not really a target to achieve, so it's almost like a practice mode. I rarely play it.
#3 Challenge - The best game mode there is is this and something I hadn't seen in previous versions of Bejeweled. You have set targets to achieve in each of the 8 puzzle scenarios. When you solve one puzzle, you unlock the next. It had me hooked this game mode, and really got me into the game, because getting all the puzzles solved is very, VERY hard, but not impossible. A good trait of a well designed puzzle game for me.
#4 Blitz - If any of you who have played the free Facebook version of Bejeweled Blitz, this is in the same vain. Following the rules of Classic mode without levelling up, you have 5 minutes to achieve the highest score possible. This is another good version of the game, and I would say is the most addictive of all the modes. You just need to beat yourself every time!
#5 Multiplayer - This mode works like the Classic mode again, except instead of winning via points, you have to force your opponant to blow up a Bomb Gem. This is done by matching consecutivly 6 times and launching a Bomb Gem onto their game-board. This continues until their is a winner. It's a fun game, but lacks the self discipline of the single player games and it really just a lark-around. Of course, this requires two DS's and two copies of the game to work.
Overall, the gameplay is consistent, accurate and fluid. It's a game that has been programmed to a high level. The cursor responds well to the stylus, the levels load quickly enough, and the movement and effects are nicely done without being to overblown. The exception to this would be when you get a Mega Fruit Bonus, the highest bonus you can get. You are then subjected to a long animation and musical sequence that gets rather tiresome, even if it is fun the first time. There is nearly no slowdown at all, but if a particularly good match activates many bombs and subsequent chain matches in one sequence, a tiny bit of animation can falter, but it's barely noticeable.
--Graphics and Sound--
As with any puzzle game, the graphics are never going to break any lifelike boundaries, but sharpness and colour separation is important. The vibrant colours used for the jewels and the more softer colours used for the backgrounds compliment each other nicely. No gem becomes invisible due to camouflaging with the background or overlaying text. Again, this seems to have been thought about well and the game screen is always clear to see and play. Some rather blocky moments occur with several animations and also a side-game were you can save yourself from a bomb exploding. The graphics are fit for purpose however, and keep sharp and bright at all times, making to game easy on the eye even for glasses wearers. Most of this action is on the lower screen of course, but the upper screen does have a role to play too.
During the game whilst playing, the upper screen shows a space ship image with the various bonus targets and multipliers in their progress during the game. Again, this is clear and in bright colours. However, during loading the next level, the upper screen displays a rather poorly drawn and animated spaceship zooming off to another planet. This takes time too, and kind of delays the game slightly. I think this is unnecessary, and looks pretty poor compared the rest of the games graphics, and would not effect the flow of the game if it were missing. A small negative again, but one I think worth mentioning.
Finally, the sound effects are good and fitting with the game. The creepy voice-over is present, as with all Bejeweled games, and is kind of a trademark for it. Explosions are quite loud and make for a nice aside, as do the bleeps and sirens for matches and bonuses. Bejeweled Twist is again like many puzzle games before it, and has an annoying and rather distracting soundtrack during game-time. This can be turned off of course, and thank goodness for that. Tetris still has the only bearable soundtrack for me in the realms of puzzle game musical scoring.
If you are a puzzle game fan, then Bejeweled is a game you would have surely played in the last 10 years, and this version is even better than the original. If, like me, you found the ordinary format of the game a little boring after a while, this alternate way of playing the game livens things up considerably. I like the fact that by turning the jewels opens up much more depth into the game concept, and with the added 'killer' gems, for me this is the best version of the game to date. Addictive and difficult in places, the balance is just right, and it's not a pushover nor an impossibility to clock the game, so it holds up well for value for money. A very fine game to fritter away the spare hours, and to lightly test the grey-matter too that doesn't involve numbers.
Thanks for Reading. © Novabug