PopCap have been on a bit of a roll of late. The excellent Peggle made a big splash onto Xbox Live Arcade and Plants vs Zombies is becoming a huge hit for fans of PC gaming. PS3 owners must have been feeling a little left out from the PopCap love, but fear not, Bejewelled 2 has come to PSN and the good news is that it's still as fun to play as it ever was.
There can't be many people who aren't familiar with the rules of Bejewelled, but here's a quick recap. The premise of the game is to match three, four or five jewelled squares of the same colour by moving a single piece on the grid left, right, up or down. Matching the gems clears them from the board, replacing any destroyed cubes by dropping in new items from the top of the screen. This carries on ad-infinitum until there are no more moves, or if attempting the action mode, the player runs out of time. It sounds like tedium squared, but in fact, Bejewelled 2 has to be one of the most addictive experiences this side of smoking crack-cocaine.
Initially there are four game modes available; classic, action, puzzle mode and endless. These are very much small variations on the main piece match theme, but each has its own twist, such as introducing bomb pieces in the puzzle mode. High-score chasing is the order of the day with classic or action mode, and PSN thankfully supports online leaderboards. For those players that simply want to relax and enjoy the ambient music and soothing visuals once the required number of pieces have been removed for level completion, endless mode never gets to the point of “No More Moves” - it is as the name would suggest, endless.
Do well in these four main modes, and the avid puzzling gamer will be rewarded by unlocking four hidden modes. It is of course more of the same, but these introduce a more explosive mix into the puzzle pieces. What is particularly encouraging and satisfying, is the sweet sound of success as the player is told his actions are great, surperb and incredible as the multiplyer combos rack up.
Bejewelled 2 was one of the first titles to hit XBLA when the Xbox 360 arrived on our shores, the game had notoriously difficult achievements to unlock, some requiring hundreds of hours of dedicated play time to get. For the PS3 trophies, these have been somewhat watered down. No longer is it necessary to get ten thousand power-gems for a shiny emblem on the dashboard, that's now been reduced ten-fold. Likewise, unlocking the four hidden game modes has been equally thinned, requiring far less playtime and thus giving the player a far better chance of seeing the entire spread the game has to offer.
Whilst Bejewelled 2 is one of the most simple of gaming propositions, this is its very strength. Anyone can pick up the game and have fun, there are no complicated rules, there's no bashing the joypad against the wall in frustration – just pure and simple puzzle gaming at its best. Greatest of all, this is a game that's easy to relax with, as a wind-down to the more usual murder-death-kill of many modern games. Bejewelled 2 really is a gem of casual gaming.