Before there was Peggle, Pop Cap Games unleashed the likes of Bejeweled onto the gaming public. While it wasn't an entirely new concept - pre-empted by the likes of Columns and Doku-Go - the match-three formula of the title struck a chord with casual gamers. Now in its latest iteration, Bejeweled Twist tries to freshen up the basic mechanic of the original Bejeweled while also trying to keep gamers hooked in. Unfortunately, unlike previous Bejeweled titles, Twist doesn't do enough to hook gamers in for the long haul, but once you get used to the new game mechanic, you'll find that the series still has some of its shine intact.
The twist alluded to in the title of Bejeweled Twist is the largest change to the Bejeweled game mechanic. Rather than flipping two coloured gems to try and match three gems, Twist will have you rotating a quartet of multi-coloured gems - similar to the gameplay mechanic present in the Xbox Live Arcade puzzle title Hexic HD. Each mouse click rotates the cluster of four gems by one place in a clockwise motion. When you've made a match, the like-colored gems will disappear and more will drop down into the screen - just like in the original version of Bejeweled. But unlike the previous Bejeweled games, Bejeweled Twist allows you to make a move without making a match. You are quite free to keep rotating gems for as long as you please without scoring any points or witnessing the dreaded "no more moves" message on-screen.
While this may entice players that are not particularly good with puzzle titles to take the game out for a test run, it acts as a complete turn off for those that are adept with the traditional Bejeweled gameplay mechanic as it completely alters the pacing of the title, slowing it down to an almost snail pace and taking away the essence of what makes Bejeweled a fun casual title. With Twist, you will often find that you'll make a handful of moves without anything happening. While the traditional Bejeweled experience rewarded players for making a match on every turn and had you furiously scouring the playing field until you exhausted all possibilities of a match in order to keep the game going.
The other negative of Bejeweled Twist is that it notably lacks a sense of progression. When you fail in the game, you are forced to go right back to the beginning to start over. While this serves as a greater challenge for you to progress through the levels, Bejeweled Twist could really have done well to follow the example of Peggle and letting players jump back into the fray rather than working their way through previous levels over and over.
Negatives aside, Bejeweled Twist does provide some challenging moments that will strain your cranium, particularly the introduction of special gems which can greatly affect your ability to complete a level. The greatest challenge comes from bomb gems featuring a countdown timer. If you fail to match the bomb gem in the allotted amount of moves, the screen then zooms into a 'disarm spinner' which presents you with a slot machine-esque mini-game in order to survive. Get the wrong match and it's game over, but even if you manage to survive the dreaded skulls, you can be assured that they will be more difficult to overcome the next time they pop up. Other special jewels include flame and lightning gems which you can unlock by matching four or more gems in a single move. These jewels blast entire rows and columns of gems when matched. Fruit gems act like a wild card of sorts, allowing you to remove all gems from the playing field of a particular colour.
While the game includes the usual game mode options, the best variation comes in the form of Challenge Mode, which presents you with a series of puzzles and goals to achieve whilst clearing the level. For instance, the Preserver challenges will concoct such tasks as making you have at least thirty green gems in the field while you go about making your matches. If you happen to drop below thirty, the game ends. For those that like an even greater challenge, the Spectrum challenge will force you to match specific gem colors in succession. A great reason to tackle the Challenge Mode is that you are rewarded for completing these difficult challenges by unlocking more to play - which will give you plenty to do if you decide to stick with Bejeweled Twist for the long haul.
Pop Cap Games have a long history of improving on the presentation of previous titles, and Bejeweled Twist doesn't disappoint. Bright colours, exceptional sound effects and a catchy musical track all add to the presentation, proving that Bejeweled Twist is one of the most polished casual titles on the market.
Bejeweled Twist is another enjoyable casual game from the masters of the casual game, Pop Cap. But like the old adage says "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and unfortunately the makers of Bejeweled Twist have tried to fix something which was not broken, taking away the fast pace and instant accessibility factor that has kept Bejeweled players utterly hooked to this puzzle series.