800 MS Points for a game that lasts only a minute? Sign me up!
It seems like only a few days ago that I was playing my way through multiple games of Bejeweled 2 on Xbox360 in preparation for my review of PopCap Hits. It would now appear that my time away from matching three or more coloured gems was destined to be short-lived as I find myself faced with Bejeweled Blitz Live, the latest incarnation from PopCap and the second release in the Xbox Live House Party. It’s not like I need to sleep anyway…
Much like the other Bejeweled games, Blitz Live offers the same style of gameplay where the player has to quite simply match three or more same coloured gems horizontally or vertically, to score points. Special gems can be revealed on screen by matching four or five in various configurations, allowing the player to destroy adjacent gems, a full row and column, or even all gems of a particular colour. These gems, combined with multipliers and a fair amount of speed, are the key to achieving high scores.
Speed? Surely speed has no place in Bejeweled? But this is where Blitz Live differs from the previous games. Blitz Live has a 60 second timer and once the timer runs out, it’s game over. This changes the dynamics of the game completely, changing it from a leisurely match-three game where the player needs only worry about running out of moves, to a frantic race to manage the highest score possible. Blitz Live has that wonderfully compelling quick-hit gameplay that sees the player sink hours upon hours into perfecting that high score. Putting the controller down is not an option because the next game could be that one perfect game that sees all of the gems fall into the right place and allow a satisfying 100,000+ score.
One thing that concerned me, after spending so much time with the PC version, was the control method. A game that is this fast and frantic needs controls that can keep up and I was just not sure that the Xbox controller could cope. I need not have been worried though. PopCap have mapped the A,B,X,Y buttons to swap down, left, right and up in a natural manner, and the control stick does a great job of moving the target around the screen. It may not be as precise as a mouse, but after a few minutes practice it becomes second nature.
For the sake of variety, the new Twist game mode has also been included. In Twist the player does not swap gems, but rotates a group of four either clockwise or anticlockwise to make the matches. I must admit to yearning to return to classic Blitz Live after playing Twist for a few rounds, but the addition of something different is welcome and I am sure that this mode will have leagues of fans.
Both Twist and Classic offer something more than just a solitary gem-swapping experience. Playing against a friend is possible, both locally and online, which is a huge amount of fun and raises what is already a competitive game to a whole new level. Then there is also the Party mode which allows up to 16 people to join the fun with progress amongst the group being charted not just on a leaderboard between games, but also during the game with a panel to the left of the playing board. Each of the players in the party are represented on the panel and move around depending on their scores, with impressive fireworks going off whenever special gems or chains/cascades/combos are achieved.
Perhaps the most important inclusion in Blitz Live are the leaderboards. With filters allowing the player to compare with just friends or the whole world and different boards for individual game scores, total lifetime scores, all-time and weekly high scores, there is certainly plenty here to indulge anyone with a competitive streak.
I have already lost hours of my life to this game on the PC and now it has started all over again. Bejeweled Blitz Live is addictive, frantic and so much fun. The quest for a high score begins now on XBLA for 800MS points. Buy it now!