Review: Bejeweled Twist DS

BejeweledTwist.jpg Bejeweled Twist is Bejeweled with a twist, and Bejeweled Twist’s twist is a twist. OK, that probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense right now, but give me a moment to explain.

Standard Bejeweled has you clearing colored gems by sliding one gem at a time to create horizontal or vertical chains of at least three like-colored gems in a row – it’s a pretty basic match-three puzzle design. Bejeweled Twist takes this base and puts a twist on it. Instead of sliding gems one at a time, you rotate (or twist) two-by-two gem sections in order to link matching colors together. Sounds good, right?

Indeed, this is a clever twist on the Bejeweled formula, and the new gameplay it brings is fun and explosive (literally). By matching four gems, you create an exploding Flame Gem that clears out surrounding gems, and by matching five gems, you create a Lighting Gem that zaps away all gems in its row and column. You also have to worry about time bombs, which tick down with every turn and, if they reach zero, activate a roulette mini-game determining whether its game over or not. Lumps of coal, which can only be destroyed with fire or lighting, and locked gems, which can not be twisted, must also be dealt with if you want to achieve a high score.

PopCap went the extra mile to adapt the game to the DS format as well. Twisting gems is as easy as tapping the touch screen or moving the selection highlighter with the D-pad and hitting the A button – you have the choice, and both control methods work flawlessly. The game’s portable accessibility is further accentuated by a quick save option that, in Classic mode, automatically saves your progress when you quit. So if you’re playing on the go in short spurts, you can pick up right where you left off without worry. Play modes are in abundance too, with the standard Classic mode, an untimed, endless Zen mode, a Blitz mode challenging you to score as many points as you can in five minutes, a Challenge mode tasking you with tough puzzle challenges like clearing eight gems in one move or filling the screen with 20 red gems at the same time, and a two-player Battle mode.

Bejeweled Twist does stumble in a few areas, though. For starters, I thought the game was incredibly easy compared to the traditional Bejeweled style. Being able to twist gems around makes forming matches much easier, and, even when a time bomb drops your way, you never feel the pressure of a countdown forcing you to think and react on your toes. After completing over 20 levels without failure on my first play, I’d already lost the drive to come back to top my score because I didn’t feel like I was being challenged.

Strangely, the DS also has a tough time running the game smoothly, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering the graphics, though sharp, clean and colorful, are hardly advanced enough that they should be taxing the system. But whenever you trigger an explosion or some other power-up, the framerate takes a severe hit, and while it may not hinder your ability to play the game, it’s still a distracting eyesore.

Another possible drawback — for multiplayer gamers at least — is the lack of single-card download play, especially since PopCap offered such functionality in Bookworm DS (review coming next) and even Peggle: Dual Shot to an extent (it didn’t have multiplayer, but you could share one copy of the game with another DS). Online play would’ve been nice too, but for a casual budget game that’s not a feature I ever expected.

But I still have to come back to the lacking challenge as the one flaw that stunts this game’s potential. Bejeweled Twist, like preceding games in the franchise, is a delightful little match-three puzzler that plays well and has its addictive moments. But on a platform with so many standout puzzle games, it blends in with the crowd and fails to be anything more than “just another good DS puzzler.”

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Pros:
+ Puts an interesting twist on an existing franchise
+ Good match-three puzzle fun
+ Nicely adapted to the DS in terms of controls and portability
+ Lots of play modes

Cons:
– Never seems challenging enough
– Severe framerate drops
– Doesn’t stand out against other match-three puzzlers

Game Info:
Platform: DS (lite version also available via DSiWare)
Publisher: PopCap Games
Developer: Griptonite Games
Release Date: 1/19/2010
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2 (Wireless Multi-Card Play)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!