Bejeweled is a highly addictive puzzle game from Popcap Games for Internet Explorer/ActiveX, for 32-bit Windows, for PalmOS-driven devices and as a MIDlet for Java-enabled MIDP-compatible mobile phones, as well as a Game Boy Advance version published by Majesco. The basic concept of the game involves exchanging the position of two adjacent tiles (jewels) in order to line up three or more identical tiles horizontally or vertically.

When the tiles are lined up they are removed, and tiles fall from the top of the playfield to fill the empty space. If jewels falling as the result of this line up into groups of three or more, they too will clear. This is called a cascade. Cascades cause a gauge at the bottom of the game display to fill up, and when it does so you receive a level-clearing bonus, a number of blocks are eliminated randomly, and blocks fall. It is possible that this will lead to another series of cascades that will fill up the meter again, et cetera.

There are two basic modes of play; timed, and normal. During the timed version, the meter will steadily decrease, and if there are no available moves, the playfield is cleared and refilled. In the normal game, if there are no available moves, the game is over.

There are four versions of the Bejeweled game besides the sequel, Bejeweled 2. The original was pesented on the web using ActiveX, which means it can only be played in Internet Explorer and on Windows. This was followed by a version which runs on Windows natively, and finally a version for PalmOS PDAs. Eventually, a Java MIDlet version was released for MIDP-compatible phones, and Majesco (maker of console games) brought a port to the GBA. These last two are the only versions played without a pointing device; the windows versions are mouse-controlled and the Palm version with the stylus.

While Bejeweled is a great deal of fun, each version has at least its share of problems and some amount of aggravation by design. The MIDP version in particular can get into a state where empty space is not refilled if the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) is interrupted, such as when a text message is received, yet the timer continues to run out. I have had both windows versions fail to credit me for a cascade that occurs as the timer expires, while the Java version will run out the timer while a match is being cleared, even when a cascade is about to occur - behavior not shared by the Windows versions of the game. These sorts of problems are endemic to Popcap games. In addition to these problems, the Java version has another fairly pathetic bug - the score is stored using a fairly small signed integer. I acheived a score of over 200,000, and the next time I ran the game I was informed that my score was approximately negative 32,000. While the game is very simple, the Java version takes over 140kB storage on your phone, more than Rayman 3 or either Prince of Persia MIDP game.

The word bejeweled means "decorated with jewels"; see also adorned and encrusted.

Title: Bejeweled
Developer: PopCap Games, Inc. and Astraware Ltd.
Publisher: PopCap Games, Inc.
Year: 2000
Platforms: Flash, Windows, Mac OS X, Palm OS, PocketPC, Smartphone, XBox, fifth generation iPod
Genre: Puzzle
Players: One player only

Bejeweled is a simple colour matching puzzle game in a similar vein to Yoshi's Cookie, Columns and Puyo Puyo. A grid is filled with colourful jewels, and the object of the game is to swap pairs of them so that three jewels of matching colour line up in a row.

The classic mode of play has no time limit, which means that you can keep playing until you run out of valid moves. Considering that the colours of the jewels are randomised, there appears to be no correlation between how skilled you are and how far in the game you can progress.

Oddly, this apparent pointlessness isn't necessarily a flaw: considering that the game is available on handheld devices such as music players and mobile phones, the classic mode is a fun way to waste a few minutes. It's also a convenient way to learn the game. You can get into the habit of scanning for "V," "i" and "L" patterns of nearby jewels of the same colour without having to worry about losing the game before you've even started playing it properly.

As enjoyable as it is, the classic mode will probably become dull once you get the hang of it. This is where the action mode breathes new life into the game. In both modes, a meter at the side of the screen measures your progress towards the next level. In action mode, it also trickles back down like an hourglass, ensuring that you can only progress through the game if you can play it quickly enough. While this isn't relaxing like the classic mode, it makes Bejeweled feel more like a regular game that encourages you to develop your skills the more you play it.

While Bejeweled isn't the best game ever made, it's a fun way to entertain yourself for a few minutes. For this reason, it's perfectly suited to the portable devices it's most frequently played on. The iPod version in particular has the bonuses of letting you listen to your favourite music while you play, and letting you save the game to resume later on. I'd recommend it to anyone who commutes daily.

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