Bejeweled v2.2 for PalmOS & Pocket PC

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: Astraware, go to the web site
Requires: Any Palm OS 3.1 or later; music requires Palm Zire 71 or Tungsten series, Treo 600 or Sony UX series
MSRP: US$14.95

The PDA addicts among us cower in fear at any new release of something as supremely engrossing as Bejeweled. The fact is that except for things such as Solitaire and Yahtzee, nothing hits the spot like, oh, about an hour of Bejeweled. The game started off as a pleasant diversion a few years ago. These latest versions arrive complete with all the advantages provided by PalmOS 5 and Pocket PC 2003 - excellent performance in standard or hi-res, clean, colorful graphics, smooth game play and fast game response. The Pocket PC version includes a solid music track to help urge you on to higher and higher scores.

The Bejeweled game board is straightforward. A grid filled with rubies, diamonds and a variety of other jewels is presented in random order. You have to create row of 3 or more identical jewels, whereupon the row disappears, the jewels above collapse down and new jewels appear at the top of the board to fill the gaps. You are only allowed to move one jewel at a time to create a row of three or more - no dead moves allowed. Keep your focus and you'll be better able to see the matches, but if you lose your concentration (or if you get too intense during a game) it gets really hard to distinguish matches. The game does not end until there are no more matches, which means games can end after a couple of minutes or go on for hours. After weeks of playing Bejeweled, we have yet to come across a duplicate opening session, which means the grid setups at the beginning of each game are completely random.

Who thinks of this stuff?!? It may appear innocent enough, but it's actually all very insidious, addictive and well designed. Of course the trick to any good game design is often how hard the designers and programmers are willing to work in order to strike the ultimately perfect balance between great graphics and robust game play. Striking that balance effectively is what helps to make a great game. The game was designed and programmed by PopCap - Astraware is the distributor. There have been several versions of Bejeweled, each one better than its predecessor, all of which have added the third element necessary for a great game: a simple but catchy premise.

Start a game, tap a jewel then tap an adjacent spot to align 3 or more stones. You can also drag & drop a jewel into position. Play against the clock or play with unlimited time (the game will only end when there are no more moves). However you play Bejeweled, the high score reward at the end of the session should be reward enough. My high score so far is 46,110 but I hear there are high scores well over 100,000 (what kind of batteries do these people use I want to know - or is just the magic of an AC adaptor?).

Cons: Nothing wrong here! Mind you, we'd like just a few more game play variations such as configurations which require matching 4 in a row instead of 3, shape matching and so on. The main differences between the PalmOS and Pocket PC versions are the music track and much stronger sounds effects in the Pocket PC version. We're hoping for a new PalmOS version with more complete audio. Dragging & dropping jewels in the Pocket PC version is finicky - tap & select works perfectly however.

Pros: Plug ear buds or headphones (for the sound effects or music) into your color PDA and get lost for as long as your batteries hold out. Astraware has a habit of finding unique and interesting games for its expanding stable of titles. Bejeweled is completely addictive. We tested Bejeweled on a Palm Zire 71, a Sony Clie N760C and a Compaq iPaq 3950 - no problems, clean installation, smooth operation and hours of uninterrupted game play. Highly recommended.

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