Remember the days before Candy Crush came and stole the thunder of PopCap’s wonderfully therapeutic, gem matching puzzle series on mobiles? I do.
Bejeweled was everywhere. For good reason too; having honed their casual gaming credentials and refined the formula of their most successful puzzle game for years by the time this board game hit the shelves in 2013 (the original Bejeweled appeared way back in 2001), they’d turned gem matching into a pleasingly Pavlovian art, with wonderful sound cues and shiny gems tapping into the magpie-like instincts of players the world over.
Unfortunately, after providing a wealth of mini-games and various ways to smash gems in Bejeweled 3, the series didn’t ever seem to recapture the same level of popularity again – with games such as the aforementioned Candy Crush successfully monetising the formula and, frankly, to the detriment of the genre. I can’t be alone in ignoring puzzle games on mobile these days, no matter the pedigree – they all seem to mine the same monetised progression style formula that Bejeweled did so well to refrain from back at the height of its popularity.
The board game is a wonderful adaptation; though board game adaptations of video games are nothing new (with my own first foray into video game based tabletop games being the marble-powered Pac-Man in the early 80s, but other arcade adaptations were available around the same time too), Bejeweled is that rare beast – an adaptation that just seems absolutely perfect at recreating the experience you’d get by playing the video game, albeit in a multiplayer format.
As in the video game, players switch adjacent gems to match 3 or more gems in a horizontal or vertical line. They score one coin of that gem’s colour if the line matched makes three in a row, two coins for four gems matched and three coins for a line of five. In each instance, if a power gem (which is pleasingly filled with glitter and very shiny, even compared to the non-power gem pieces) is used in the match, an extra coin is awarded. The remaining gems are then pushed away from the player and more drawn blindly from the included box to fill the empty rows and play passes to the next player. Once a player has three coins in each of at least three colours, they win.
That’s it. It’s incredibly straightforward, very fast paced and pleasingly tactile; the gem pieces are beautiful pieces of transparent plastic in various colours, matching the shapes and colours of their video game counterparts. Though yellow and orange are a little too similarly-hued for my colour-blindness afflicted eyes, the shapes do a great job in helping to distinguish each colour.
It’s a great game, but unfortunately a little tough to get hold of these days due to it being long out of print. If one can be found at a reasonable price, however, it’s well worth investing in – it’s a really simple game that players of any age can instantly pick up and play without any difficulty.
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