Xbox Live Arcade is probably at the moment the unsung hero of the Xbox 360, but when you think about the opportunity this now shows for struggling small time developers, it has opened a brand new way of exposure and for us gaming addicts who crave something from simpler days, a blast from the past.
Xbox Live Arcade ‘IS’ the Trojan horse for the Xbox 360 and I have no doubts about this. You may buy this latest console from Microsoft for the super powerful next generation graphics on games like Kameo or Perfect Dark Zero, but with a little exploration, you will find an extra now built in section in the new dazzling Xbox 360 Dashboard and that is of course Xbox Live Arcade.
Bejeweled 2 is definitely one of those games that is trying to appeal to a broader audience or the casual gamer. However that is not to say it is to be avoided or frowned upon for those of us who enjoy a good old thrashing on Halo 2.
On the original Xbox (which I suppose has been renamed to Xbox 1) I saw the first Bejeweled game hit the arcade, which was a more basic, however still addictive puzzle game involving gems. Match 3 gems in a line or more and earn points to advance to the next level. The game ends when you have ran out of combinations on screen. Sounds simple enough, but actually a lot of fun could be found in such simplicity. Sometimes you want something to relax you and this title did fit the requirement very well in the past.
Now we have the Xbox 360 and all we hear about is next generation, high definition graphics and even Xbox Live Arcade titles have not been forgotten. Bejeweled 2 certainly has taken a graphical leap forward as well as using widescreen aspect ratio for those of us lucky enough to own such a TV. Everything looks sharper and more impressive graphically with varying backgrounds of landscapes as you advance through the levels. As you complete a level you ‘warp’ to the next with an impressive. well.. Warp like effect which is a kaleidoscope of colours that will dazzle onlookers.
The gameplay in what’s now named ‘classic’ mode has also changed slightly. The basic principles still remain faithful; however collecting 4 gems will now create a new gem that will glow. Matching this new gem in a row of 3 or more will cause it to explode taking some of the surrounding gems with it. If you manage to get a row of 5 gems you will get something that looks like a mini universe spinning. Swap this with any gem and it will destroy all gems on screen that match. This can have some very interesting combinations created as you sit comfortably in your chair watching a very magical performance on screen.
This has taken the game far further than the original as you no longer feel that fate is in the title’s hands as it gives you the random gems at the start. You can tinker with the explosions and mega explosions to expand the possibilities creating a feel that you have more control which is far more satisfying.
There are extra modes as well now making your money spin out far further than ever before. Making its return is the action mode, which is a far more frantic dash as you race against the clock. Now for a new mode, ‘Puzzle’ as the name suggests is a set of gradually more difficult puzzles which quite frankly is a pure genius edition to the game. Finally there is the new ‘Endless’ mode, which again as the name suggest never ends… If you ‘really’ want to sit back and enjoy the game, then you can run the Endless mode and if you are patient enough, you can reach level 280 to unlock an achievement.
The audio and music in the game are leaps and bounds above the original, for one the music isn’t repetitive and actually inspires you to play a little more. The explosion sounds and warping effects all add to the overall gameplay and feel of the title.
If you wish to relax, if you wish to see bright oscillating colours without the need for other stimuli, Bejeweled 2 is one of the must have titles from the new Xbox Live Arcade. You will not be disappointed with this returning title and even hardcore gamers will be able to find pleasure in something veteran gamers will appreciate from day one!