Review: Bejeweled 2 (iPhone)

The de facto puzzle game of the Internet Age arrives on the iPhone at an unbeatable price

If you’ve surfed the Web in the last five years, I’m willing to wager you’ve also played Bejeweled. Since it first appeared as a Web-based application in 2001, Bejeweled has been downloaded more than 150 million times, according to developer PopCap. Known for its wildly popular and often brilliant casual games, such as the Pachinko-like Peggle, Bejeweled remains PopCap’s iconic flagship title. This latest iteration first arrived in a Web-based format in 2004, followed by releases on Xbox Live Arcade in 2005 and PSN in 2009. With the immense install base of the iPhone and the unparalleled accessibility of its native App Store, porting Bejeweled 2 to the phone was a no-brainer. And with the game priced at a paltry $2.99, it’s easily the best value for your money in iPhone gaming. 

Part of the beauty of Bejeweled has always resided in its accessibility. Whether you prefer to spend your weekends mercilessly blowing people away on Xbox Live in Call of Duty, or if you play the occasional game of FreeCell during a lull at work, you’re going to have a good time with Bejeweled. The game sports a classic mode where you make matches and increase your score until no more moves can be made, but it also includes two new modes: Action and Endless.

While Endless Mode offers a casual (almost catatonic) mode of play where you never run out of moves, which is likely to appeal to newcomers, the real standout addition to Bejeweled 2 is Action Mode. Its premise is simple enough: Match gems in quicker and quicker succession in order to boost your meter to the top. The quicker you make matches, the faster the meter rises. When it hits 100%, you move on to the next stage, where you gain more points but the meter drops more rapidly. When it empties completely, it’s game over. The pace quickly ramps up into a frenetic action-puzzler that actually delivers some authentic thrills. My girlfriend and I spent the better part of a weekend contending for the highest score in Action Mode. (For the record: she currently h0lds the highest score by a ridiculous margin.)

While price is typically less of a consideration in reviewing a retail console or PC game, it takes on a greater significance in the realm of digital distribution. And with the iPhone App Store already flooded with thousands of free and for-pay games — and new ones arriving constantly — it almost goes without saying that money and time can easily be squandered. Consequently, I feel that, as a reviewer, it is important to establish whether an iPhone title is a good value or not.

Fortunately, Bejeweled 2 is a hell of a value. Since purchasing it about a week and a half ago, the game has been responsible for my phone running low on batteries by mid-afternoon more than once. The control scheme is intuitive — simply drag one gem in any direction with your finger to swap places, and if three or more match, they disappear. However, the game is remarkably astute when it comes to determining which gem you meant to move where. For example, it pays attention to which gems can be moved to match as opposed to which can’t, and any time you input a move with your finger it detects whichever valid move is closest to the one you made and executes it. This results in uninterrupted gameplay with no frustrating mistakes on the part of the computer. After nearly seven hours of gameplay, I’ve seen the game make maybe one or two matches I didn’t intend to make.

While it’s certainly not the newest puzzle game to hit the market, Bejeweled 2 really shines (graphically and gameplay-wise) on the iPhone’s brilliant screen. And for three bucks, you could certainly do a whole lot worse for yourself.

Recommended for:

  • iPhone and iPod Touch owners looking for an enduring, high-quality game on the go
  • Puzzle game enthusiasts who want the most bang for their buck
  • Anyone looking for a quick, pick-up-and-play game that all their friends can enjoy

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