This is one of those gems of casual games, a shining pinnacle of replayability and game craftsmanship.

User Rating: 8.5 | Bejeweled 2 Deluxe PC
This is one of those gems of casual games, a shining pinnacle of replayability and game craftsmanship. PopCap's sequel to one of the most addictive and acclaimed casual game ever follows the old recipe and only further improves it with more game modes (some of which are hidden), easy-on-the-eye improved graphics and an impressive soundtrack. The best way to describe Bejeweled 2 might be: if you walked into a confectionery shop eager to get a good bite, Peggle and Puzzle Quest would be extravagant new cakes that go down your throat with an explosion of taste and the first time you try one such a sweet, you love it; after a while though, you WILL find yourself coming back to the old, proven specialty of the house, Bejeweled 2.

To go a bit further into the details, I'll start with the main menu. You are greeted by a slightly metallic, retro-futuristic male robot voice. It will also comment on your moves in the actual game adding an occasional "Excellent", "Incredible" etc. - overall a very cool addition, not too intrusive. In the main menu, apart from the obligatory options, help and stuff, you will (at first) see four game modes: Classic, Action, Puzzle and Endless. I won't go into describing each mode too much as I'm sure you've probably either read about them already or can guess what each one should represent. What I shall say however, is that each and every one of them IS fun in it's own way and although you might find one or the other a tad difficult or maybe even boring at first, once you get the hang of the game that will be a thing of the past and you'll be dying to get a new highscore in each one. Another thing that charmed me about this game was the quality retro font you are used to seeing in old movies like "Superman"; it goes really well with the soothing backdrop images of space and planets that change with each level (well, there are about 17 actually, then they repeat). While there /is/ an option called 'Random backdrops' for those who are impatient, I strongly recommend trying to "unlock and see" the new backdrops by progressing through levels. Trust me, the satisfaction in finally reaching a new level and seeing a beautiful planet landscape in the background is immense. Let's move on to the soundtrack. There are several high quality themes, diverse enough not to get you bored. Everyone is bound to enjoy and get to love at least one of those tracks, and I can say that after 20+ hours of playing I am still not sick of the music, only perhaps not as exhillerated as I was at first. The graphics is beautiful; I honestly think that no matter how much the technology progresses no one can find those sparkling gems ugly in any way - it's what you would call timeless. And now for the gameplay itself...

Bejeweled 2 is a /challenging/ game. Not frustrating, not unbeatable, but definitely a tough nut to crack. Don't despair if you find yourself looking at the dreadful "No More Moves" or "Time Up" message every so often (I did too). Though there are some strategies and hints that could help you, the key is practice. I liked how I found myself enjoying the game more and more as I got noticeably better at planning moves and feeling my own skill improve. There's much less of a luck factor involves than it may appear to you at a first glance. Another incredible feeling I got was that the game seems to be "helping" you if you make the right moves, you just need to take your time. Of course, sometimes it's all about the luck.

There is plenty to Bejeweled 2 to keep you coming back to it. There are 5 hidden game modes (I've managed to unlock one so far and I love it), all somehow related to reaching a certain level (or perhaps a score) in the original four game modes. Furthermore, in the bottom of the highscore table you can reach via main menu and in the end of every game you will be awarded with a rank (overall rank in the case of the score table in the main menu) and a stat reading. I don't know exactly how many ranks there are, but they all sound interesting (Master Bezelier for example). Even so, just a relaxing game of gem-swapping every once in a while is a reason enough never to uninstall Bejeweled 2.

Truly a good bang for the buck, the only thing I could see as a potential repelling factor to new players is the game difficulty - though if you look at it the right way - that very thing is the key to huge replayability this game has.