It’s fair to say that no one will ever sit down and say to themselves “I quite fancy a nice relaxing game of Bejeweled Blitz”. PopCap’s latest spin on the gem matching franchise isn’t exactly the simple affair that fans might have become accustomed to.
At its core the game retains the same key elements, requiring the player to match three or more coloured gems. However in Bejeweled Blitz the player is given only a set amount of time to play. Starting out with just sixty valuable seconds in which to rack up the highest score possible, the race really is against the clock to make as many combos as possible…not as easy as you’d think when the pressure is on.
When you first start playing Blitz, it’s impossible to avoid becoming flustered. Everything seems designed to get your heart pumping as the game piles on the pressure; the steady countdown of the timer, the flashing edge of the screen when it hits the t-minus twenty seconds mark, all of it deliberately designed so you can almost feel each valuable second slipping away. As we said at the start, this isn’t a puzzle game that you could unwind with at the end of a hard day – Blitz takes its score-attack mechanic very seriously, inducing something akin to a nervous breakdown as you stare at the screen, desperately trying to find another chain. Thankfully the Hint system can be triggered with a speedy press of a bumper button, but this can only be used sparingly since it needs time to recharge and also effects your speed bonus.
The game requires the player to be fast and it’s a pace which the game doesn’t just expect, it demands it if you want to obtain anything resembling a reasonable high score. Blitz is the first title in the series that allows players to move gems before a chain has completed and you’ll quickly find that this isn’t an optional skill. Speed of combos increases your multiplier and the player will need to be at least one, if not two, steps ahead with another chain in mind before their current one has registered. Naturally this demands a level of concentration that puzzle games don’t usually require in this day and age. It’s actually somewhat refreshing thanks to its bite sized approach and, despite the pressure, you’ll certainly find yourself jabbing the button to start again when the timer runs out. It’s easy to get sucked in and countless times we looked up only to find that, instead of a few minutes, a whole hour had passed. Which given that each round lasts a maximum of sixty seconds… well, you can do that maths on that one.
If the classic version of Bejeweled doesn’t grab you, then you can also try the Twist variant which requires you to rotate a circular cluster of four gems in order to try and match them up. This is definitely one for veteran players, since the mode is particularly taxing on the brain before you even factor in a time limit.
After already hooking Facebook users, the XBLA release of Blitz tackles the LIVE portion of its title with gusto. In fact its integration with the 360′s online features is very evident as it constantly tracks your progress, even saving a replay of your highest scoring game so that people can see how you did it. Or, in our case, how long we spent blundering around the grid in a frantic attempt to match anything. There’s constant leaderboard integration which shows how close players are to beating your score (or vice versa) and, in a similar style to the recent Pinball FX2, it also feels like a collective effort as well as a competitive one, with the Friendscore chart that combines your score to unlock Achievements.
Local and online Verses modes are present along with the Party mode which allows up to sixteen players to battle against one another, complete with a handy little chart in the corner of the screen that maps each players position. In fact this integration is so well done, just as it was with the release of Peggle, that it makes us lament the lack of online in Plants Vs Zombies even more (okay we’ll stop banging that old drum now).
Those expecting any extra modes like previous Bejeweled titles will be somewhat disappointed – the game doesn’t have anything like the Zen or Infinite modes that were in included elsewhere. To be fair to PopCap, anyone walking into this title expecting Bejeweled 3 was heading for disappointment – Blitz LIVE knows exactly what it sets out to do and does it very well.
If this is your first experience of Bejeweled title then our recommendation would be to go away and try one of the others first, purely because it’s a harsh learning curve to try and contend with the timer as well as the basic mechanics, and will surely result in frustration. For those who fancy a real challenge, then Bejeweled Blitz LIVE is the perfect way to pit your wits against others and see if you’re as good a player as you think you are. Sprinkled with a touch of the usual PopCap magic that makes their games so addictive, Blitz LIVE is one to watch out for, lest it eats up all your spare time.