Reviews

Bejeweled: Blitz Live – Review (XBLA)

 

Xbox Live Arcade Title
Price: 800MSP
Singleplayer: Yes
Local Multiplayer/co-op: Yes
Multiplayer: 2-16

Popcap have made themselves a huge success from one idea: simple puzzle games.
Bejeweled is one such game and has had many, many outings over multiple platforms. Now Popcap have decided to bring it back to XBLA again in the form of Blitz, a port of the popular game of the same name on Facebook.

The premise is simple: make rows of matching jewels to get points. Couldn’t be simpler.
Of course actually doing said thing proves to be a little more challenging and vastly more entertaining than it sounds.
The two game modes on offer are Classic and Twist. Classic see’s you swapping two adjacent jewels to create your rows, while Twist allows you to rotate blocks of four at a time. Classic is certainly the more challenging of the two game modes as creating larger rows of jewels is challenging and requires careful though, or sometimes just randomely swapping jewels as you panic.

The more jewels you get into a lovely straight line the cooler the effect you get. A simple row of three just gets you some points, while four in a row creates an explosive jewel that awaits activation. Get 5 and you get a beauty of a jewel that sends an electric bolt across the board. And finally, the sixth, creates a supernova jewel that scores vast points.
Speed is also of the essence as the quicker you match jewels the more points you net so quick reactions and a good eye are key to getting those big scores.
The final detail in the gameplay is the sixty-second time limit per game making this the ultimate game to play if you’ve just got a spare ten minutes to fill in. It also makes for some rather frantic gameplay as you try to cram in those last-minute points.

Party Mode in action.

Blitz is also an easy game to get into. Anyone can pick up and get playing by simply matching up rows, but to become skilled at the game requires careful thought and planning of your moves to get the most out of the board, as well as a deft hand to ensure you can move them as fast as possible.

Go outside of the singleplayer and you’ve got access to two different multiplayer modes. Xbox Live Duel is a simple 1v1 game that plays like the singleplayer game, only against a person, obviously. It also adds in Amps and Style points to the mix.
Xbox Live Party is where the real fun is at though as it allows up to 16 players to play together. Oddly this isn’t a game with a set way to win, rather it charts each player on a graph that shows who has the most points and lets you play for as long as you want. It’s an interesting addition to the game, even if it feels a little odd having no win condition, but it is a good way to simply have fun with friends.

As you may expect across both the singleplayer and mutliplayer are leaderboards and these are one of the games biggest draws as you compete with friends to prove that you’ve got the best eye for jewels. You can filter through the standard friends and worldwide and sort between Classic and Twist, as well as weekly scores, all time scores and XP gained.
The leaderboards are ever-present as well to remind you who’s kicking your butt. The boards are always on display on the main menu and during singleplayer games as well.

Graphically speaking this doesn’t really offer much, and that’s because Popcap have decided to go with the clean and simple look. Menu’s and displays are done in translucent colors and make for a rather interesting look that reminds me of some of the Radian games from the Indie channel. It looks fresh and has a nice vibe to it.

The sound also goes for the minimal setup with no background music, instead you just have the sound effects of jewels being blow to pieces and of you flicking through menu’s. Combined with the graphics it creates a rather relaxing game, even if my eyes did occasionally feel like they’d imploded from the melting pot of colors.

During my playtime I encountered a single, lonely glitch that stopped my Classic rank bar ever going up. It simply stayed at rank one and nothing I did could persuade it to move. Thankfully you don’t unlock anything in the game by going up in rank, but certain achievements are tied to it. Whether this glitch was unique to me is hard to say.

For 800MSP Blitz is a very fun game, and my only real complaint is there isn’t that much game for your buck in sheer content vs value, but it’s a minor complaint as the gameplay makes up for it by being fast and frantic, as well as making you think about your moves.

The Good:
+ It’s frantic!
+ Simple concept, but like many simple games it’s easy to learn and hard to master.
+ Getting in those last second points

The Bad:
- What happened to my Classic rank?
-  Playing for too long and slowly seeing the screen just blur into a mass of colors.

The Scores:

Graphics: 7.5
Clean and simple. They’re far from amazing but work well enough.

Sound: 7
As with graphics, clean and simple.

Story: 0
Match some jewels!

Gameplay: 8.5
Brilliantly simple and extremely addictive.

Lifespan: 8
The actual value vs sheer content isn’t that much, but the sixty second games and fun gameplay keep you coming back for more and more.

Overall: 8.5
A fast, fun and frantic puzzle game that is easy to pick up and near impossible to master.
Blitz is a lesson to all that complex does not always mean good.

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