Not too many casual games age real well. When you’re done with most, when you’ve gotten as high a score as you think you’ll ever get, off they go, zapped from your desktop into that virtual game closet in the sky, never to be seen again.
But there are some exceptions, some that are worth revisiting simply because they are little gems that are so beautifully done, you may have forgotten how good they really are.
Bejeweled 2 Deluxe is one of those, the 2004 reworking of the original "Bejeweled" game that had won Computer Gaming World’s award for the Puzzle Game Of The Year in 2001. And, last year, it was inducted into CGW’s Hall Of Fame, the first puzzle game so honored since Tetris 19 years ago. Now that’s saying something!
If you’ve never tried Bejeweled 2 Deluxe, it’s worth giving it a go. At first, it looks familiar but only because Bejeweled was one of the first — perhaps the first — three-in-a-row game of which there have been a zillion-and-one knockoffs. But none better, believe you me.
This is the epitome of a casual game. It takes about five — no, make that three — seconds to learn, it’s fun to play, and should you ever tire of it, there are three other modes to try — all winners.
In Classic mode, the playing field consists of 64 sparkling gems that you need to swap, two at a time, in order to create horizontal or vertical rows of the same color. Three-in-a-row is the minimum, four-in-a-row transforms into an explosive Power Gem, and five-in-a-row delivers a Hyper Cube with the power to destroy all gems of one color. Matched gems disappear causing those above to drop down and, hopefully, create other matches for extra points. Make enough matches to move the horizontal timing bar all the way to the right and it’s on to the next level. And that’s it! Simple, no muss, no fuss.
Augmenting the fun experience are the lovely graphics (like the pieces that glisten and shimmer as you play), the neat sound effects (like the clicking of the gems like little mah-jongg tiles and the explosions that go off as the jewels vaporize), and the intergalactic backdrops that you can set to change after each level. Let’s not forget the cool "New Age" electronic music that would do even Yanni proud. Because you’ll want to play for long stretches, it would have been a real bummer if the tunes had been so repetitive that they drove you nuts; instead, these will delight.
But what really got us all tingly was the deep, Vincent Price-like voice of the Announcer who compliments us with a "Good!" on a nice move, an "Excellent!" on a sensational move, and an "Incredible!" when our a cascade of matches really impresses him. (Of course there’s no way to plan for the falling gems to create other matches but, heck, if the Announcer wants to give us a compliment, so be it. We just love to impress the Announcer!)
What needs changing? A few things. If your matching takes a little too long — like maybe 16 seconds or so — a hint arrow will suggest a move. Hey! Who asked for a hint? We don’t need no stinkin’ hints! OK, maybe we do. But if we wanted one, we would have punched the "hint" button on the left. Fortunately, the hint arrows (which won’t turn off no matter how hard you plead) impose no penalty, while pressing the "hint" button does remove points. Can somebody explain the logic behind that? (Our favorite thing is to let the game give us a hint… and then to ignore it and make a different move. Hey, Hint Man! Who asked for your hint in the first place, huh, huh, huh?)
And just when you think you’re doing great and racking up those points, the Announcer may bust in with a "No more moves!" Were we supposed to be able to foresee that and make a different move that would have avoided the situation? I think not. So why are we being penalized for something over which we have no control?
Hard to believe but, at some point, you may tire of Classic mode. Instead of going elsewhere, don’t forget there are three other modes to try: Puzzle mode, in which you need to clear all the gems to solve puzzles; Action mode, in which you’ll be racing the clock; and Endless mode, which lets you relax and match gems until the cows come home. (Say, exactly when do the cows come home?)
While "Classic" mode is our favorite, all four are as fun as can be, and you’ll want you to play each "just one more time" to top your previous high score. Speaking of high scores, each time you complete a game, you’re handed a comprehensive rundown of your best score, the number of levels you competed, the amount of time you played, the numbers of gems you collected, the size of your biggest cascade, the number of Power Gems and Hyper Cubes you created, where you left your wristwatch last week, what time you have that doctor’s appointment, and … okay, so it doesn’t do the last two. But Bejeweled 2 Deluxe does everything else you’d expect in a great game. Maybe they’re saving the last two for Bejeweled 3.