It must be something in the water up in Seattle, Washington because PopCap has done it again with Bejewled Blitz Live. Arriving second to the XBLA House Party, this sequel has everything you could conceivably want out of an Arcade game: simplicity, multiplayer, and most importantly, sheer addictive fun. It doesn’t pack a whole lot of depth, and it’s a little rough around the edges at time, but Blitz Live has enough fun to be a worthy follow-up to Hard Corps Uprising.
Whereas the original Bejewled gave you plenty of time to match gems, Blitz flips the script on you entirely. Now every round lasts 60 seconds, no more and no less, during which time you have one goal: score as many points as humanly possible. The 60 second time-limit seems like it would fragment gameplay and reduce some of the game’s pull, but it has the exact opposite effect. At the end of every round you’ll find yourself pulled back in, wanting to give the board one more go before you’re ready to give up on setting a new high score.
The added time limit also gives each moment a sense of importance, leading to more than a few tense moments where you scramble to find the last couple hundred points before the clock strikes zero. Put together, Blitz is classic Bejewled distilled into easily digestible, bite sized morsels, which is to say it’s fantastically addictive fun.
Blitz doesn’t just saddle you with the classic game mode and send you merrily on your way though; it gives you a couple of new ways to experience gem matching. Classic mode is present and allows you to move your gems in one of four directions by using the face buttons. You’re also presented with the option to play twist, a previously PC-exclusive mode in which you twist yoru set of four gems a-la Hexic. Twist also has the added benefit of not forcing you to make matches with each move, allowing for much more strategic arranging of your gems. Both of these modes sport controls that are a little stiff, but between the two of them provide a nice variety that will have you coming back for more no matter how many times you play.
Once you’ve mastered the art of the match you’re inevitably going to want to prove your dominance over everyone else with an Xbox 360. Blitz Live gives you plenty of opportunities to do this, but not in the smoothest way. There’s the omnipresent leaderboard support, but the real meat is in battle mode. In this, you and one other player will compete in 60 second increments to win two out of three categories: style, number of matches, and total points.
In local play the multiplayer is just as fun as single player, but battle mode falls a bit short once you go online. For one, although quick match provides you with plenty of opponents to play against, but it takes you back to the lobby after every game. This creates an awkward state of affairs where you’ll have to find a new match every minute, majorly breaking up the flow of gameplay in a major way.
The solution to this is Party Mode, where you enter into a room with up to 15 other players and play consecutive rounds together, with players moving up and down a grid depending on how well they’re doing. Although this solves some of the problems with continuing play, Blitz Live would probably have been best served with the addition of a marathon mode where you can play for as long as you like.
Weak multiplayer offerings don’t keep PopCap’s latest game from being fun though. It doesn’t break any new ground by sticking to the classic Blitz formula, but it doesn’t really need to because that foundation is so solid. If you’ve never had the chance to experience the intense Blitz option give this one a shot, it will be $10 well spent.
[Bejewled Blitz Live]-800 MSP