The Bejeweled series has been a steady favorite for puzzle fans over the years. It was Candy Crush long before there was Candy Crush — and yet it’s largely fallen off the radar in recent years, falling by the wayside thanks to King’s recent dominance in the field. So, it makes sense that the latest Bejeweled game, Bejeweled Stars, happens to borrow a few different elements from the now leader of the pack. That means that it’s a bit of a derivative experience, but a classy one that takes advantage of everything that’s always worked so well for the franchise.
Eschewing the usual Bejeweled format of endless play, Bejeweled Stars is laid out in a series of levels, each with their own objective. Some of these can be fairly simple, such as clearing a set number of the same color gem, but oftentimes it’s much trickier than that. For example, Bejeweled Stars soon introduces stone tiles that can only be destroyed through using explosive gems. Fortunately the game has a bevy of ways to create such explosive gems. Indeed, in classic Bejeweled style, huge combos can be accrued with relatively little effort — and that’s a big part of what makes Bejeweled Stars so much fun.
You can opt to place four matching gems together in a square formation or in a line-up, with each creating a fiery gem that – once combined with others – explodes. You can go one or two steps further too, with five and six gems also creating quite the potent mix. Other times you can combine gems to create a line gem, wiping out a horizontal and vertical line in your wake. This has always been where the Bejeweled franchise has been at its strongest, and it continues here. It’s immensely rewarding setting up such a huge combo, and that’s all the more noticeable when you consider the rather stylish graphics involved.
As a free-to-play game, you’d expect Bejeweled Stars to be riddled with ways to eke some money out of you. Admittedly, it has an energy system meaning you’re restricted to five attempts before waiting for things to refresh, but otherwise, it’s quite generous. Rather than merely buying power-ups, Bejeweled Stars has you craft them from various gems that you collect while playing. You have to wait for them to finish being made (with options available to speed things up at a price), but it’s quite a clever way of doing things. It means that you don’t have to spend money if you don’t want to, but you can still strategize when it comes to gaining the best power-ups for a particularly tough level. Bejeweled Stars gradually unlocks more of these power-ups, giving you quite a wealth of choice within a few dozen levels.
Bejeweled Stars also has the usual rewards for logging in daily, albeit tied into a daily challenge to further entice you into regular sessions. You’re not going to run out of things to do any time soon, though, as there are plenty of levels to sink your teeth into. Much like with Candy Crush Saga et al, you’ll hit a stage that will test you for a while, before moving onto a few more straight forward levels. It’s that stop/start nature that helps to keep you enthralled by what’s going on.
It’s a shame that Bejeweled Stars doesn’t take more risks, instead opting to follow in the mold popularized by their chief competitor. But that original way of creating power-ups goes some way to giving this title its own personality, and nothing quite beats the satisfaction that comes from clearing the whole board because of a couple of conveniently placed explosive tiles. Fans of earlier games in the series might be surprised by some of the changes, but at its heart, this is very much the Bejeweled you know and love.