PopCap games have a certain reputation for being incredibly awesome and addicting; so much in fact that I often find myself owning multiple copies of the same game as they become available on different platforms. Last summer, PopCap took an interesting step and released Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook. Needless to say this resulted in a huge success, as people around the world would load up the game to play a few quick rounds only to find themselves playing for hours trying to beat their friends scores.
But now, PopCap has taken that same formula and released it in the form of a downloadable title for XBLA titled Bejeweled Blitz LIVE. The question is as always whether or not this is a version that you must own, or if this is one of the ports that just doesn’t quite work. The results are very surprising.
Bejeweled Blitz LIVE comes with two different game modes; Classic, which runs with the classic Bejeweled gameplay of matching gems by swapping two, and the Twist mode which replaces the cursor with a wheel that highlights a group of four gems and rotates them all either left or right. Both come with one jarring change however; the rounds are cut down to precisely one minute in length. This was perfect when the game was released on Facebook last year and is a large reason the game enjoyed as much success as it did. It was easy to load up the game and play a few quick rounds before you head out to work (or while at work when your boss wasn’t around), but it was also just as easy to find those minutes turn into hours as you scramble to get better scores and knock your friends off that leaderboard.
The XBLA version imports every facet of the Facebook version, including the leaderboard integration with your friends list. Seeing your name at the top feels very good, but seeing your friends name is infuriating. As you find your score coming short of the top by just a few thousand you’ll find that Bejeweled Blitz is the definition of “just one more round” gameplay as you keep hitting “retry” as you get SO CLOSE to the top.
With only one minute rounds, a good portion of how well your game is going to go comes from luck and your original gem layout, combined with how quick you can spot potential matches and make the move. Movement however is where the biggest shortfall in this game comes in as moving around with the analog stick is dreadfully slow and clumsy. With the name of the game being speed, you’re going to want to make as many matches as you can in as short a time as possible and try to keep your combo going. But by the time you’ve spotted a move across the board and moved to it you might have already lost your speed bonus.
Swapping gems is done by highlighting the one you want to move, and pressing the corresponding face button to switch it in that direction. A moves down, B to the right, etc. This is probably the best way to do this and in itself doesn’t create a problem, but does take a little getting used to. You’ll make mistakes trying to go too fast, but this happens when playing with a mouse on the PC versions as well and is part of the game.
As you play in each game mode you’ll level up (with a separate ranking for Classic and Twist). You gain experience based on your score, which will encourage you to actually finish every game rather than just hitting restart if things aren’t working out for you.
The key to the success of Bejeweled Blitz was always it’s social integration, though in the original version this was simply the inclusion of leaderboards. This version ramps it up by offering two online modes which can be played in either Classic or Twist. The first is “Battle” which is simply a two player head to head single round, highest score wins. Both boards are completely random and can be seen by either player which adds to the intensity.
The second mode is “Party”, which throws you in a lobby with multiple people. You each play on your own board and compete for the highest scores. A small graph on the left shows first everyone’s gamer pic floating as a bubble showing the current rankings, and a smaller one showing a larger scale so you can see where everyone in the lobby is at.
The battle rounds are pretty fun and the party mode is certainly interesting. It doesn’t add very much to the game, but you still gain experience while playing online and if you get a new high score it’s still counted in your personal leaderboard against your friends, so if you have XBox Live you may as well play Party mode.
Bejeweled Blitz LIVE is a wonderful game and every bit as addicting as it was when it first released online last summer. But therein lies the games biggest problem in that outside of the basic “Blitz” mode, it really doesn’t offer much else. The online modes are definitely fun, but it’s still just playing the same game with more people playing at the same time. With the annoying analog controls and the lack of content, not to mention the fact that this game is still free to play on Facebook, I’m not entirely positive if this is one I would recommend picking up. That’s a decision you’re going to have to make for yourself.
- Title: Bejeweled Blitz LIVE
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360 (XBLA)
- Publisher: PopCap Games
- Developer: Torpex Games
- MSRP: $10 / 800 Microsoft Points
- Release Date: Available Now
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.