Let’s face it: I’m not just a hardcore first-person, action-platforming and shoot-to-kill gamer. I’ve played my fair share of casual stuff that goes back all the way to Tetris, mind you. For that matter, I’ve even played numerous variations on Bejeweled since the first one came out under the original name of Diamond Mine (in fact, the current name probably didn’t get stuck on the game until back when I saw it marked as such on Microsoft’s Internet gaming channel on MSN years ago, during the Zone.com days if memory serves me right).
Since that early version of Bejeweled, we’ve been through two sequels, a twist-rotation variant and a one minute free-for-all on Facebook… which brings me to Bejeweled Blitz Live, which is essentially the Facebook speed-run version on steroids — pumping audio, vivid high-definition graphics and gamepad-based control. That’s right: gamepad-based control. Having support for Kinect-based gestures would have made this one easier (and similar to the Facebook game) but instead the standard gamepad is used all by itself for all control, and this makes for some inexcusably hokey gameplay that doesn’t even come close to the Facebook edition. The main culprit is moving the cursor with the left stick on your average Xbox 360 controller: with that control method as my only option, I was lucky enough just to get a small bit over 22,000 points in classic mode — nearly one half worse then my best score on the Facebook version. Plus, having to line up the cursor on the right gem that you need to swap in order to “match three” (which is usually one gem up, down, left or even right from the two gems) when executing a vertical swap (A button) or horizontal swap (X button) for each set within a single minute’s worth of play time is frustrating at best, and next to impossible at worst in trying to keep up the pace.
Worse still is the lack of score multipliers that the Facebook release gives you — all you get in their place is the hypercubes and power gems from other versions of Bejeweled, which aren’t nearly as useful for racking up the high scores you can get on Facebook. Twist mode isn’t any better: here, the A button rotates the selected group of jewels clockwise (while the X button rotates each group counter-clockwise) but again, the
movement of the cursor with the left stick fails to match the required pacing of a one-minute game that can be played in a more efficient variation on Facebook… with a mouse cursor to aid you, whereby the gameplay is much faster than with a klutzy, cumbersome analog nub on your average Xbox 360 controller. This does one heck of a number on the entertainment factor: essentially, the complete lack of precision is likely to make this pile of humbug into something that gets old way too quick for most casual players.
Additionally, the multiplayer is by far the worst thing since Yoshi’s Cookie way back on the NES: it’s basically the same layout with the match three rule (rather than full rows and columns) and it’s very tough to master. In fact, I have no clue how to do it right — since the one minute timer is again in charge, there’s no time for thinking out a strategy, meaning that an experienced player (or total cheat, God forbid) can beat out a lesser-skilled player with a complete “easy as ABC” methodology. That is, if you can even find any competition: the Twist mode battle function had a very big likelihood of being completely devoid of players based on my tests, while the classic mode opposition I faced (just two players before I gave up) left me savoring a tasteless pile of dust, or so to speak.
Of course, you obviously want to know what the only good thing I can say about anything here is, right? Well, here it is in a nutshell: Superb graphics, audio effects and the usual techno-synthesized music that you commonly get in retail or downloadable packages of any Bejeweled game. That’s it. Everything else is as bland and almost non-functional in execution. The bottom line is this: Bejeweled Blitz Live is a deceptively eye-popping experience that still leaves a whole smorgasbord left to be desired, with it’s kludgey gameplay and the limitations of a controller-based setup. For all it’s worth, you’re better off just playing the Facebook versions and being done with it.
- Eye-Popping graphics and pumping audio effects
- Techno-synthesized music comparable to music in other Bejeweled downloads and retail versions
- Gameplay doesn’t fit the handheld controller play style
- Potential lack of competition in multiplayer battles
- Lack of score multipliers from the Facebook versions
Title : Bejeweled Blitz LIVE
Format : XBLA
Developer : PopCap Games
Publisher : PopCap Games
Release Date : 02/23/11
*PopCap Games provided SlimGamer.com with a promo code for a review copy.