For twice the amount of Bejeweled 2, you get half of a game with some thrown together features.
Introduction: With Plants vs. Zombies great success on both PC, consoles and handheld gaming devices, PopCap releases what they hope to be another casual gaming "gem," Bejeweled Blitz Live. The last Bejeweled to be released on XBLA was Bejeweled 2, which was released during the 360's launch in 2005 and had some of the toughest and most ridiculous achievements of any game.
Achievements: Bejeweled Blitz Live gives you small "dink" achievements worth 5 points that has you doing certain moves in the game, such as making "Flame Gems" (matching 4 in a row) and reaching Level 10 in either "Twist" or "Classic" mode. However, there are large achievements worth up to 50 points that you can recieve by staying on the top of the ladder for 3 minutes in a Live Party. In a word, the achievements are very inconsistent.
Game Mechanics: If you don't know the mechanics of Bejeweled, you probably haven't been playing puzzle games since Tetris. You earn points by matching 3 of the same jewels. When you match them, they disappear.
Match four and you create a "Flame Gem" that when matched will destroy gems adjacent to it.
Match 5 in a row and you will create a "Lightning Gem", which will destroy two lines of gems vertically and horizontally.
Match 6 in a row and you'll create either a "Hypercube" or "Supernova Gem". The "Hypercube", when matched with two like colors, while destroy all gems with that color on the screen. "Supernova" takes out gems that are 3 in a row and 3 in a column near the impact zone.
The catch with this version is that you have 60 seconds to create as many matches and points as you can. After the 60 seconds, all speciality gems are destroyed and the final score is tallied. The score is then placed on the online leaderboard.
There are two versions of the game: Twist and Classic. Classic plays like the original where you move two gems by switching their placement. Twist has you moving four gems clockwise or counter-clockwise.
The basic gameplay is, of course, Bejeweled. The main difference to take note is the required time limit every time you load up a game.
At first, it can become annoying to find that when you finally get some good chains going, you're time is up. However, once you have your mind set on making combos as fast as humanly possible, the game does get more fun and makes you want to play the game multiple times.
It seems as if the point of the game is to play as many 60 second intervals as possible: Blitz Live has a leveling system that accumulates the points you earned into a level bar that has you level up the more points you get. Earning levels don't really do anything aside from tally how much you've played the game, unless you want to count two achievements that will net you 5 pts and 30 pts for reaching levels 10 and 50.
This hurried version does take away two key things that make Bejeweled a beloved timewaster: the calming experience of just playing and the strategies to get more combos in an impressive chain. Why this game wasn't an add-on to Bejeweled 2 or part of a bigger package is questionable. But because you have to rely on quickly getting chains and being lucky enough to get the gems you want to be placed, the calm, tranquil feeling of a round of Bejeweled is nowhere to be found...and I don't think it's for the better.
That and Bejeweled has always been a game of luck and skill. It's really hard to feel like you have a fighting chance to get a better score when your score multiplier is dictated on no less than a good lucky gem drop.
Multi-Player Functionality: Aside from the time limit, the main difference with this version of Bejeweled is its focus on quick, multiplayer competitive gaming. Whether you are playing against opponents or not, your score is being compared weekly and all-time on all aspects of the game.
When you first load the game, you're greeted with a friends leaderboard with what's called a "Friendscore". Those of you who are familiar with Pinball FX2 will know what to expect with "Friendscore", but for everyone else, it's an accumulation of yours and your friends high scores. Other than an achievement that gives you 50pts for reaching 1M Friendscore, there's really nothing that keeps you from reaching a higher total.
The two competitive multiplayer modes, which is Battle and Party, are pretty standard to say the least.
Battle has you going one on one against another player to get the biggest score and destroying the most gems.
Party, on the other hand, just has you and up to 15 other players competiting to get the highest score in the party. The top person in the party will then get an XP bonus for the XP the player is earning while in the party. Also, there is an achievement for being on the top of a party for more than 3 minutes, which nets you 50pts.
Everything about the multiplayer seems a tad ho-hum, ranging from "hmm, that's neat" to "this could have been so much better". Leaderboards, while giving a little bit of an incentive to come back for "one more run", lack any kind of community based features or some semblance of competitive spirit. Lack of watching replays is also kind of a letdown, especially since it is more than likely not taxing at all to the game itself.
Battle mode would have been an interesting diversion, if it weren't for the fact that the gameboard shrinks down to almost 33% of the size of the TV. On smaller TV's, this can make Battle mode absolutely unplayable.
Party mode, however, is basically the single player mode. The only difference is your score is tallied on a separate leaderboard for the entire duration of your time in this party.
Multiplayer, while being a primary focus of this Bejeweled, really seems like a tacked on afterthought, which is disappointing since the only difference otherwise from any other version is the arbitrary time limit.
Final Verdict: Any game can be competitive; it's just that some aren't built to be. And while Bejeweled Blitz Live is fun and has some endearing qualities, there are too many steps back to really give the game a good recommendation. The time limit, while furnishing a competitive spirit into the game, strips out the key essence of what makes this series endearing. On top of that, there really isn't a whole lot to the game if you're not into multiplayer gaming or competitive leaderboards.
And by the first week of the game being released, it doesn't seem like Bejeweled Blitz Live is that popular of a game. My current friends list, which has up to 30 friends of all different types of game types, didn't have a single person who purchased the game. And at 800MP, it's easy to see why. This seems more like a game that is a better Android or iPod app then it is an XBLA game, especially since it seems like it's missing a lot of what Bejeweled fans are wanting.
Are you not a fan or tire of Match-3 puzzle games? Subtract 2 points. - For the better part of a decade, Match-3 games have been the popular form of puzzle games, from phones to consoles to portables to PCs alike. You pretty much know if you can stomach more or not, but if you know you can't, take away 2 points.
Not planning to utilize the multiplayer parts of the game? Subtract 1 point. - The game seems to want to emphasize that this is built for multiplayer gaming. That being said, if you have no intentions of playing with or against others, it's best you take a point off the total.
Not a competitive puzzle gamer? Subtract 1 point. - Another thing the game wants to focus on is competition even when you're not against a specific opponent. If online leaderboards do nothing for you, take a point away.
Not a social gamer or have a diverse group of friends on your friends list? Subtract 1 point. - One of the worst things to deal with is to have a multiplayer game that is competitive...but there's no competition. If you know no one in your friends list that is playing this, or that has no interest in this game, take a point away.
Do you have a group of friends who will play online multiplayer with you or will provide competition? If so, add 1 point. - If a couple of friends you know will play this game and will provide you competition, then add a point to the game. You'll find that the game is more fun knowing someone is egging you on.
Is this on sale for 400MP? Add 1 point. - For the little you are getting, 800MP is steep. For 400MP, it's a little easier to swallow. Still, unless the score bumps up to an 8 for you, I'd still think hard about the purchase.