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RELEASE DATE (NA): November 15, 2011 GENRE: Match-3
// review by SoyBomb

Don't Befooled 3.

They crept up on us like a stealthy bear to a campside, ready to feast on our limbs and our plump Johnsonville bratwursts. Match-3 games somehow infiltrated the gaming world and have become the staple relaxing go-to for the casual crowd. For that one person in Omaha that has no idea what a Match-3 game is, let me break it down, plain and simple. You are given a plane covered in tiles. You try to swap tiles with adjacent ones to make groups of three or more, which then disappear, likely to be replaced with the ones above, as more fall from the top of the plane. Usually, there is an end goal to swapping the tiles, be they to match a certain number of one colour, to uncover a picture behind the grid by matching tiles over top of it, or to bring treasures from the top to the bottom by making matches underneath and having the treasure fall down as a result. Once you've played one Match-3 game, you pretty much have all the skills necessary for every other one out there. And they are everywhere, multiplying by the hundreds, spawning like children on a TLC reality show. Steam is packed with them; Big Fish Games, one of the big players in the casual gaming market, has 65 of them... and I stopped counting after all the games starting with "A".

Standing tall, Bejeweled is the behemoth of them all. I swear this game has been everywhere. First made available to personal computers in late 2010, Bejeweled 3 has seen ports to PlayStation 3 (which this review is based on), Xbox 360, Xbox One, and many mobile devices. At this point, it's hard to avoid being able to grab a copy. So what makes Bejeweled 3 a cut above the rest? Well... actually... it's no better than the rest.

No, really, it's about as impressive as any of the other bazillion Match-3 games out there. It looks very decent, with a slick interface and some graphical pops here and there. But there's no reinvention of the wheel, no discovery of an innovative new play style. And where the developer DOES try to innovate, the end result is more annoying than it is fun. Let's run through the different modes of play.

The first is "Classic", a type of endless play mode seen in previous Bejeweled games where you just keep on making tile matches until there are none left to make, at which point the game ends, and you check the online leaderboard to see if you achieved a higher score than randoms online like xX_iluvjellybeanz_Xx or 4tn8fan2018. "Zen" mode is similar, except the game ensures there is always at least one move available to the player, thus creating a never-ending experience. Relaxing sounds can be toggled on and off in the background, and positive life affirmations appear from time to time, trying to improve your life. Surprisingly, there's no advice to stop playing Match-3 games and go outside.

What, you're matching tiles. Game Developer's Award, here we don't come!

A "Lightning" mode has you making as many matches as possible within one minute for maximum p-p-points! By matching special Time Gems, you can extend your total time beyond the minute. "Quest" mode has you seeking out and unlocking mystical treasures by completing a wider variety of game matches, including fighting against rising ice and mining for gold nuggets. This is easily the most entertaining mode of the game, highlighted by its relative diversity.

There are four additional unlockable modes, all of which are seen featured in Quest mode. "Butterflies" has you trying to match coloured butterflies with the on-screen gems before they flutter to the top of the playing field. Each move you make (that doesn't eliminate them) moves them one space closer to the top. "Diamond Mine" has you digging through dirt à la Super Mario Bros. 2 by matching tiles adjacent to the dirt. Once you dig to a certain depth, extra time is added to your clock to continue.

The other two modes are less fun and, quite frankly, I avoid them if I can. "Ice Storm" has you making matches while ice columns slowly rise to the top; if even one icy column makes it to the top and freeze there, your game ends. You can lower the columns by making matches above or on top of them. The ice moves far too quickly; this is not a game for those with heart conditions or are pregnant. "Poker" has you matching different colours to create poker hand equivalents (like four colours of a kind, or a full house of two different colours) to meet score goals. It's as boring as it sounds.

I was pretty much finished with Bejeweled 3 in a matter of a few hours. The old-school Match-3 styles fail to excite anyone who's played any others in the genre, while the extra modes varied severely in quality and entertainment value from "Oh, okay, sure." to "Where's my mallet?" Bejeweled 3 is decent, but I've been there and done that enough times to wonder why we need so many of these bloody games.

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