Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bejeweled 3 (PS3)

One of my earliest reviews on Trophy Unlocked was for Bejeweled 3, the latest entry in PopCap Games’ popular Bejeweled series of puzzle games (it’s likely the first thing you think of when a match-three game comes to mind). It being one of my first for the blog, I am honestly not satisfied with how it turned out, since I was still learning at the time how to type reviews on a semi-regular basis and I had no idea what I was doing. As such, I wanted to make up for it somehow, so I decided to use the PS3 port of the game, the subject of this review, as an opportunity to do so. Originally I was hesitant about playing a console version of the game, since I feel that many puzzle games of its kind are better with a mouse, but I decided to give it a shot anyway, receiving the game as a Christmas gift (much like how I obtained the original PC version). Having played it for a while I think that, though it is a good port, it does have a few minor issues.

The gameplay of Bejeweled is rather simple: your goal is to match 3 or more like gems on the board to clear them so that more come down and the cycle repeats, generally until you run out of moves. While simple, it can get surprisingly addicting and sessions can last for a good while before you realize what time it is. Each Bejeweled game since the first has improved upon this formula while also adding their own spins on the concept (in one case literally). One thing Bejeweled 3 has to offer is the ability to make matches even while gems are falling, which improves upon gameplay significantly and allows more freedom for combos. It also has some of the best visuals seen in a Bejeweled game yet, which is also evident in the PS3 port, where the gems look more visually appealing than in previous installments. These improvements were in fact so popular that they were used for the retail release of the Bejeweled Blitz Facebook spin-off game. The music is also very good, in that not only is it somewhat memorable, but it also helps to create an atmosphere for each game mode without being distracting.

Bejeweled 3 has plenty of different gameplay options to choose from. One of the first ones that are unlocked from the start, and the first one I went for, is the Quest mode, which is comprised of a series of mini-games where upon completion you help restore a set of artifacts. Some of these mini-games are actually condensed versions of some of the larger options in the main game, some of which are unlocked by reaching a certain point in other modes, so this can give you a good idea of how the game plays on the system and what you are in for should you choose to explore any further. Other options include Butterflies, where you must match butterflies to free them before they reach a spider at the top; Ice Storm, where you must match gems to prevent ice from reaching the top; Poker, in which you must make good Poker hands through matching gems while avoiding Skulls; Diamond Mine, where you have to dig into the ground via gem matching while also excavating gold and artifacts; Lightning, where you must make matches as fast as possible before time runs out; Classic, which uses the gameplay mechanics of Bejeweled 3 while using the original game’s rule of being able to run out of moves; and Zen, an endless form of Bejeweled 3 designed to help you relax. The Zen mode of PS3 version of the game has slightly less options than in the PC version, mainly due to a lack of headphone use on the PS3, but otherwise it can still help with your relaxation (though the ambient noises you can pick from don’t replace the background music like in PC version). Whichever ones you want to play more often are up to your personal tastes, though personally, aside from Zen, my favorites include Lightning and Diamond Mine, and occasionally Butterflies, much like with the PC version.

While the game itself is still fun to play, the thing that took away from it a little was the inability to connect a mouse to play. I know it seems weird to want to use a mouse to play a console game, but try making matches quickly under any sort of time limit while using only the D-Pad, which lead my left thumb to feel a little numb after a while before I took a small break. You can also use the sticks to navigate the cursor across the board, which is sort of like using a mouse cursor, but to me it just didn’t feel quite the same, so I just ended up numbing my thumb with the D-Pad (I kept pulling through with it since it felt more accurate than using the stick). The PS3 version also includes leaderboards, allowing you to compare your scores to that of other players over PSN, however this did not interest me since I like to play Bejeweled without having it feel competitive, so this also may have affected my feelings on the game a little bit. There’s also the effect the port has on SD TV’s, in that the game seems to just barely fit on the screen, though it is still otherwise playable. Despite these personal feelings about certain features, the port is otherwise very well put together. It also features slightly different menu and HUD layouts throughout, but they are done to accommodate the system and are not intrusive on regular play.

The PS3 version of the game also comes with a couple of extra games from PopCap’s library, namely Zuma, a match-three game involving shooting mutli-colored balls at a trail(s) of other multi-colored balls to eliminate them before they reach the end, and Feeding Frenzy 2: Shipwreck Showdown, in which you control a fish that grows bigger by eating other fish in various locales. Since I wanted to get the most out my experience with Bejeweled 3 on PS3, I decided to try those out to see how they played on a console. I have actually played Zuma before on a PC and liked it, so I was able to get some enjoyment out of the game, though I found using the stick to aim instead of a mouse to be slightly awkward at times, sometimes causing me to go off-target with my ball shots (that, and the presence of leaderboards affected me similarly to the main game in the package). By contrast, the controller layout actually works rather perfectly with Feeding Frenzy 2, though I can’t compare it to the PC version since this was my first time playing the game (for the record, I have also not yet played the original Feeding Frenzy game as of this writing). While the game does gradually introduce new gameplay mechanics as well as different fish you can control and consume, it started to feel monotonous after a while when I played the Story Mode Lite option (in which, unlike regular Story Mode, you don’t have to worry about limited lives or continues), so while I’m not saying it’s a bad game, I simply got bored with it after a while and stopped playing.

While not perfect, the PS3 port of Bejeweled 3 is very well-made and can be enjoyable despite its shortcomings. The slightly awkward control scheme makes playing each gameplay option a little more difficult than they need to be, but the overall quality of the port makes it easy to overlook the other faults and still have fun with it. The other two games in the package are still playable for the control schemes they have and they serve as an added bonus for extra replay value (and, for some, Trophies). If you are a fan of Bejeweled, even if you have already played another version of Bejeweled 3, I would still say to give this one a shot if you don’t mind the rough patches with the port’s design. Fans of the Zuma and Feeding Frenzy games, and their ports, might also be motivated to give this game a try, even if it’s just to have a physical copy of the ports of the original Zuma and Feeding Frenzy 2. It may not be as good without the use of a mouse, but this port of Bejeweled 3 is still worth a try for fans of puzzle games.

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