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Critical Reception: PopCap's Bejeweled 3

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to PopCap's match-three puzzler Bejeweled 3, which reviews describe as "Bejeweled 2 plus a handful of both worthwhile and throwaway modes."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to PopCap's match-three puzzler Bejeweled 3, which reviews describe as "Bejeweled 2 plus a handful of both worthwhile and throwaway modes." Bejeweled 3 currently earns a score of 80 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Eurogamer's Christian Donlan scores Bejeweled 3 at 8 out of 10. "Bejeweled's a force of nature," he begins. "It's simple, colourful and compulsive. Because of all that, it's easy to underplay how well it's put together. And it would be easy to ignore the fact that the series' latest instalment offers a quiet range of clever variations that bring new life to the game." "The core of the game is still Classic mode but there have been a handful of very slight tweaks," Donlan continues. "New special gems, like the board-blasting Supernovas, ensure that the Bejeweled arms race continues nicely, while the improvements to your ability to swap jewels while others are falling really speeds things up. New gameplay modes also breathe new life into the familiar formula. "Lightning mode is the first of the three main variants - limiting the game to a very familiar single minute but throwing in time extending jewels alongside the multipliers," Donlan explains. "It's great, but without that friends-powered leaderboard, you might be better off sticking with the Facebook game where winning has a bit more kick to it." Donlan continues: "Zen mode, meanwhile, is the mode you literally can't lose at: the game will just keep going and going until the sun burns out, the Milky Way unravels and the universe drifts into its terminal frosty slumber. It's zone-out gaming at its most likeable and it's been weaponised here by all manner of new age battiness - there are options to turn on binaural beats, ambient sounds, mantras and a breath modulation indicator. Quest Mode and a series of unlockable extra modes make the package an appealing purchase. "It all adds up to another quietly fearsome package: a classic game trying on a range of smart new outfits," Donlan says. "If you've come to PopCap through Steam, Xbox Live, Facebook, or the iPhone, you might just feel the absence of the meme-age wit that has marked the company's more recent output. If you were there from the start, you'll feel right at home." Ryan Rigney at GamePro rates Bejeweled 3 at 4 out of 5 stars. "Bejeweled 3 is not a reinvention of the addictive puzzle formula that has worked so well for the past decade," he warns. "Bejeweled 3 is developer PopCap's all-out attempt at building on the familiar by throwing as much new content at the wall as possible and seeing what sticks." "As is generally the case with such a diverse spread, some of the game's newer modes work better than others," Rigney notes. "Butterflies, for example, is an excellent addition that feels wholly unlike the standard Bejeweled experience. In it, you must stop multicolored butterflies from reaching the top of the screen where a hungry spider lays in wait. The butterflies enter the game board from the bottom of the screen, and each time you swap a gem they'll move up one space. "By matching the butterflies with gems of their color or catching them in an explosion, you free the butterfly from the board and prevent them from being eaten. It's a particularly interesting and strategically deep twist, and I wound up putting more time into it than I did in Classic mode." Other gameplay variations aren't as successful. "On the other side of the equation you have unnecessary duds like Diamond Mine -- a mode that feels almost entirely luck-based -- or Ice Storm, which is like an annoying and strenuous version of Butterflies," Rigney adds. "The aforementioned Quest mode is also filled with game variants that seem better fitted to a mini-game collection than a high-profile release like Bejeweled 3, although most of them are fun enough in small doses." "Despite a hit-or-miss assortment of new and old modes, Bejeweled addicts are guaranteed to flock to this game in droves," Rigney writes. "Bejeweled 3 takes a few risks, and the result is essentially Bejeweled 2 plus a handful of both worthwhile and throwaway modes. If that's enough to warrant a purchase, however, is up to you." IGN's Charles Onyett gives Bejeweled 3 an 8 out of 10. "Following the success of Peggle and Plants vs Zombies, PopCap returns to its roots with Bejeweled 3," he begins. "Even if you've happened to pick up the Blitz or Twist versions of Bejeweled that have trickled out over the years, there's still reason to give this a shot." "Whether you're craving fast-faced action or prefer to relax while destroying virtual valuables, PopCap's put enough into Bejeweled 3 to satisfy," Onyett notes. "While Classic tends to be fairly low pressure compared to the other modes, the most relaxing of all is Zen. This lets you swap and shatter gems with no restrictions, and PopCap's added in a bunch of audio/visual options to boost its soothing effect. I can't say I ever descended into some kind of drooling trance by turning on coastal ambient sounds or binaural alpha patterns, but I suppose I can't really rule out its effectiveness either." In addition: "Spending some time with those four modes unlocks the next, more specialized tier. Poker feels the most distinct, giving you five turns to make five card hand. Each match locks in that particular color to a card, so you need to spend time surveying the board to see which colors are clustered closest together to form matches within five turns." Onyett finds that this mode is not as addictive as others, however. "PopCap applies pressure by gradually forcing you towards the higher value matches like flushes, so even though there's no clock, this isn't a relaxing mode," he explains. "The stringent restrictions also mean the joyful cascades that so strongly characterize Bejeweled are rendered meaningless. While I appreciate how different this mode feels, it also wasn't one I found myself returning to very often since it lacks some of the chaotic joy of the others." "There's something here for every kind of Bejeweled fan, from high intensity timed challenges to more laid back matching options," Onyett concludes. "It's just a shame the leaderboards aren't online, which misses out on a lot of potential for competitive longevity. Even so, the gameplay remains addictive. If you've only got five or ten minutes to play a video game, there are few better options than Bejeweled 3."

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