Like Bejeweled Blitz? Fortune Stones’ extra challenges and play modes might actually win you over.

As a person who plays Bejeweled Blitz about as routinely as I brush my teeth or put on my clothes, I was a little wary of playing Playteau’s Fortune Stones at first. On the surface, the two games are a bit too similar. Both involve connecting three gems to make a match, both give bonus items for matching gems in L and T formations, and both have time limits to add to the exciting. At first, I was ready to write off Fortune Stones as a mere clone. But there’s excitement and adventure here beyond the scope of Bejeweled. Fortune Stones pulls off the near-impossible: On some levels, it may actually be the better game.

If you’ve played Bejeweled Blitz, which you likely have, then you can jump right into Fortune Stones. Each game starts with a group of brightly colored gems (or stones, if you must) randomly placed throughout the board. The basic object is to clear the board by making matches of three or more, causing the stones to disappear while others rush from above to fill the void. Matching three merely removes them from the playing field; matching four creates a grenade that destroys the surrounding blocks, matching five creates a bonus items that destroys all stones of a particular color on the board, and so forth.

Fortune Stones

These features seem like mere copies of the bonuses from Bejeweled Blitz save for some key differences in how you use them. For instance, instead of matching the grenade bonus with two or more other gems in order to trigger an explosion, you simply click on the greande. Moreover, Fortune Stones adds some rarer powerups such as one that destroys blocks in an “X” pattern, a stick of dynamite that destroys every block in a diamond pattern around the bomb, and a rare nuke that removes all the blocks on the board.

If the last seems a little extreme, it’s because clearing the board of stones isn’t as important as removing the white squares behind each stone. Every level begins with the stones set against on a field of white squares, and your true goal is to make all of these flip to black by matching the stones above them. The squares never move even if the stones above them do, so you must make a match on the square before it can flip. As a result, the reward for speedy matches here also differs a bit. In Bejeweled Blitz, a successful chain of quick matches triggers a mode that makes every following match explode; here it triggers the “karma bar,” which zaps a random square and flips its white background to black. This is particularly useful for reaching white squares where you simply can’t make a match. It’s even possible to “save” the karma bar if your speed starts slipping; as long as you keep making matches with decent speed, the bar might lose power but it will never simply reset as it does in Blitz.

Fortune Stones

Fortune Stones features two modes, Frenzy and Strategy. Frenzy invites comparison to Blitz’s basic formula, but the initial time limit is two minutes instead of one. Once you clear a whole board of white squares, the board resets to white and you gain an extra 15 seconds and a score multiplier. Levels grow progressively more difficult as you try keep up the pace, adding locked stones that can be moved with bombs or by making a match without moving them.

Strategy mode is the far more innovative of the two, however, and you can only access it by completing at least two games of Frenzy. Each level begins with wildly different departures from the familiar square boards, including empty bottom halves that can’t be accessed until you remove the locked stones blocking them and tiles separated from the main board that can only be flipped by activating the karma bar. It’s great fun, and intensely more difficult and challenging than Frenzy. If you want the excitement of Frenzy, you can play the Strategy mode with a time limit, or you can turn off the time limit to play at your own pace.

Fortune Stones

Also like Bejeweled, Fortune Stones provides a few extras such as items that increase your game’s time limit by 15 seconds and items that make the karma bar trigger more quickly. Additional customization options include different backgrounds and tile sets. Until recently, players could acquire most of these options only with Playteau’s virtual currency, but Playteau is reportedly taking steps for players to buy powerups through earnings won from playing.

Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that Fortune Stones will ever come close to rivaling Blitz in popularity, but they’ve made a fine effort here that shouldn’t be missed. While the social options are currently limited to seeing your friends’ Frenzy scores for the week along the bottom of the screen, Blitz itself proves that you need little more for a game like this to succeed. The only real drawback aside from the bonuses is that Fortune Stones lacks the colorful kitschy flavor of Bejeweled; its repetitive visuals and music quickly fade into the background. Still, you can hours of fun here; maybe even months. Fans of Bejeweled Blitz will love the additional challenge; newcomers to both games will love Fortune Stones’ sheer wealth of things to do. All in all, this isn’t Bejeweled Blitz; it’s Bejeweled Blitz’s obscure but secretly smarter cousin.