How do you change the formula on arguably the most important puzzle game since Tetris while staying true to what made it fun in the first place? Why, with a twist!
Bejeweled Twist is the third entry in the hugely popular gem-matching series, and with it comes a whole slew of gameplay additions and changes. Instead of swapping adjacent gems, you rotate clusters of four clockwise to line up three or more. There’s a neat bonus goal addition too that asks you to match certain types of gems in sequential order, giving you something else to shoot for besides survival. Specials now include Flame, Lightning, Fruit, Supernova, Bomb, Doom, Coal and Locked gems, all of which are pretty self-explanatory. Flame gems take the place of Exploding ones from Bejeweled 2, burning up surrounding gems and torching nearby Coal (which otherwise can’t be matched and removed). Lightning blasts away all gems in its vertical and horizontal rows, Fruit gems clear the field of its color, Supernovas knock out their surrounding 3x3 grid and Locked gems won’t budge until matched and cleared. There’s a lot to take in even for Bejeweled veterans, but the additions provide plenty of new strategy options and give the formula a shot in the arm full of fun.
Importantly, it’s loads of fun. Like all great puzzle games, Twist is easy to pick up, tricky to master and will likely last you a while. Bejeweled fiends who have sunk countless amounts of time into swapping gems all across the compass will find the new rotating mechanic takes a little while to wrap your brain around. This time out you’re not required to clear gems every move, nor do gems snap back after a miss; if you want to get a certain gem across the playing field, you simply do the twist enough times and it’s there. The eased match pressure leads to a slower, more calculated pace of play as you line up combos and deliberately plan your actions – do you go for bonus points or try to bust open a locked gem?
That isn’t to say there’s no penalty for willy-nilly twisting. Each consecutive match builds up a level bar up top, and each time you fill it you gain a score multiplier that goes to 10x – missing a match first drops your level bar progress with each subsequent miss dropping a whole multiplier. You won’t fail from not being able to make moves, but taking too long can end the game in two ways: the detonation of a bomb gem or Doom gem.
These new gems have counters that show how many moves you have left to match and remove them from the board before they go off and ruin everyone’s picnic. Early on you’ll have a generous 20 or so moves near similar-colored gems, but later you’ll wind up with unfortunately placed new bombs that ticking down from eight. Bomb gems only tick down during moves where you make no match whereas Doom gems tick down every move. If you fail to clear these gems for whatever reason, the bomb won’t explode right away; you’re given a chance to “defuse” the gem through a roulette-style wheel. If the wheel lands on a regular gem then you hop right back in to the game, but if you get a scary-looking icon then it’s ka-boom.
Much like the DSiWare version of Bookworm, what we have here is a bare-bones puzzle package that leaves out the special play modes found in its PC sibling. No Challenge, Zen or Blitz modes to change things up, only Classic and two-player local head-to-head. Which is unsurprising given that, much like Bookworm, a full-fledged retail release is on the way. There are also multiple profiles for score tracking, a welcome addition over Bookworm’s lack of such a feature. Besides that, what you’re getting is pretty much what you can play on the Internet for free, so you might not want to plunk down the 500 Points unless you really want Twist on your DSi before the retail version drops.
Due to the DSi’s lower screen resolution, Twist looks a little rougher around the edges than its PC counterpart. Gems are a little more pixellated and grainy, but this has zero impact on actual gameplay. The tranquil score fits right in with the rest of the series and is fairly non-intrusive; you probably wouldn’t call it catchy or particularly memorable, but it fits the game quite well.
DSiWare has seen its fair share of puzzlers, but Bejeweled Twist proves that there’s always room for one more. With a slew of new additions, Twist does a commendable job of taking the series in a new direction; whether it’s better than its predecessors is a matter of preference, but there’s no doubt that PopCap has crafted a highly enjoyable puzzler. That being said, this edition is very bare-bones; it’s also only 500 points. If you don’t plan on picking up the bells-and-whistles retail release, you can’t really go wrong here.