As monumentally influential as Bejeweled was (having flogged over 25 million copies) it’s hard to see how on Earth it could be revolutionised and still remain the same game - after all, its simplicity is a significant part of its brilliance, and that makes it difficult to alter.
But PopCap essentially did it once before, creating Bejeweled 2 by refining the existing gameplay rather than reinventing it. And now it’s back with a further instalment, Bejeweled Twist, which is preparing to go mobile.
Just as it did before, this is looking to be more of a Bejeweled 1.3 than a full on sequel, but it’s still a very welcome notion, giving you good reason to play through the classic jewel-swapping, match-three gameplay.
The twist here (that’s actually not a pun, though feel free to take it as one if you think it’s funny) is that rather than simply swapping immediately adjacent jewels, a cursor is placed around a square of four gems, and pressing the ‘5’ button rotates the square 90 degrees.
It’s immediately obvious how this alters the dynamic of play in Bejeweled Twist, especially when you consider that any four jewels can be rotated at any position on the board, regardless of whether they actually align three gems.
You’re still encouraged to match three icons in as few moves as possible, however, as Bejeweled Twist builds up multipliers for every set of three eliminated gems you remove in a single rotation.
Alongside this substantial change to the gameplay mechanic, a few extra tweaks have been thrown in as PopCap did with Bejeweled 2. Some gems have a short countdown timer on them, requiring you to eliminate them before the counter reaches zero and the game detonates. Other jewels are locked, and can’t be rotated, while lumps of coal appear that need to be blown up to be removed.
It’s the frequency of these extra gems that appears to add all the tension to Bejeweled Twist, particularly the bomb gems. A couple of these in a row and you’ll be tapping at the keypad quite furiously, and quickly begin to see the patterns around the game board that go beyond simply swapping two jewels around.
What begins as a pretty uninspiring tweak of the gameplay soon becomes an almost three-dimensional thought pattern as you become familiar with the necessities of moving the pieces around the screen in this unique manner.
The previous concepts of exploding gems (created by eliminating four jewels at once) and lightning gems (from a row of five) remain, and more game modes are unlocked as you progress through the levels.
Zen mode allows you to keep playing without worry of the game ending, while Challenge mode is particularly interesting as it draws heavily upon the new ‘twist’ mechanic. It requires you to achieve a particular result in a designated number of moves, such as eliminating eight jewels in a single move, or aligning three sets of red gems in a row.
Bejeweled Twist looks like it'll be a small to moderate update on the typical jewel-swapping gameplay, but still a welcome one. It’ll be all but impossible for it to pack the same punch as the original, though hopefully it will lend experienced players (and we’ve all got some Bejeweled experience, I dare to suggest) a novel new way to look at the classic match-three gameplay.
Even at this early stage, it’s easy to imagine the clones popping up pretty quickly.